Legume seed inoculation technology - A review

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Abstract

Inoculation of legume seed is an efficient and convenient way of introducing effective rhizobia to soil and subsequently the rhizosphere of legumes. However, its full potential is yet to be realised. Following widespread crop failures, the manufacture of high quality inoculants revolutionised legume technology in Australia in the 1960s. Many improvements to inoculants and the advent of an inoculant control service ensured that quality was optimised and maintained. Minimum standards for the number of rhizobia per seed were set after consideration of several factors including seed size and loss of viability during inoculation. Despite manufacturers' recommendations for storage and application of inoculants, there is a distinct lack of control over the inoculation process; hence the full potential of high quality products may not always be achieved. The efficacy of inoculation varies depending on several factors, all of which affect the number of viable rhizobia available for infection of legume roots. Increased numbers of viable rhizobia per seed by application of inoculant above the commercially recommended rate, results in a continued linear increase in nodulation and yield. Several studies have reported yield increases of up to 25%. However, applying higher quantities of inoculant is uneconomical and technically difficult. Alternatively, higher numbers of viable rhizobia per seed may be achieved by improving survival during seed inoculation. Despite recognition of the factors affecting survival of rhizobia on seed and a substantial demand for commercially pre-inoculated legume seed, poor survival is still a major concern. Desiccation, temperature and seed coat toxicity all influence survival of rhizobia on seed. Their adverse effects may be ameliorated by selecting tolerant rhizobial strains and legume seed cultivars with low toxicity or artificially, by the use of additives in the seed coating. The accumulation of the desiccant protectant trehalose in strains of rhizobia, may result in better survival under desiccation stress. Similarly, the accumulation of exopolysaccharide (EPS) may act as a barrier reducing excessive water loss. Polymeric adhesives such as gum arabic, methyl cellulose and polyvinyl pyrollidone (PVP) have improved survival. However, studies of additives used in inoculation have been ad hoc and little of their mode of action is understood. A better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the protection of rhizobia from adverse conditions will assist in defining the optimum conditions for seed inoculation and storage to ensure a higher quality product for farmers at the time of sowing. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Deaker, R., Roughley, R. J., & Kennedy, I. R. (2004). Legume seed inoculation technology - A review. In Soil Biology and Biochemistry (Vol. 36, pp. 1275–1288). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2004.04.009

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