Populations of agrobacteria in excess of 10 CFU/g were recovered from 12 soil and root samples obtained from the Allison Savanna, Minn., a natural oak savanna and tallgrass prairie which has never been disturbed agriculturally. Of 126 strains picked randomly from selective media, 54 were identified as Agrobacterium spp. Biovar 2 strains predominated (35 of 54), but these strains were distributed into three phenotypically distinct subgroups. Of the remaining Agrobacterium strains, four were biovar 1-2, one was biovar 1, and none were biovar 3. The last 14 Agrobacterium strains formed a homogeneous group which differed biochemically from the hitherto reported biovars. Opine utilization (coded for by genes on the tumor-inducing plasmid in pathogenic Agrobacterium spp.) by these agrobacteria was limited to two biovar 2 strains. In contrast, 10 nonfluorescent gram-negative strains utilized either nopaline or octopine as the sole carbon and nitrogen source. There may be a need to reexamine the source and role of opines in the terrestrial environment because (i) all of these opine utilizers were isolated from an environment free of crown gall, the only known terrestrial source of opines, and (ii) 83% of the opine utilizers were not Agrobacterium spp.
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