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Impact of Soil Salinity on the Cowpea Nodule-Microbiome and the Isolation of Halotolerant PGPR Strains to Promote Plant Growth under Salinity Stress


Cowpea is one of the major legumes cultivated in arid and semiarid regions of the world. Four soil-microbial samples (SS-1 through SS-4) collected from semiarid soils in Punjab, Pakistan were planted with cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) crops, which were grown under salinity stress to analyze bacterial composition in the rhizosphere and within nodules using cultivation-dependent and -independent methods. Two varieties, 603 and the salt-tolerant CB 46, were each inoculated with or without the four different native soil samples or grown in medium either N-deficient (_N) or supplemented with N (+N). Plants inoculated with soil samples SS- 2 and SS-4 grew better than plants inoculated with SS-1- and SS-3 and grew comparably with the +N controls. Environmental DNA (eDNA) was isolated from SS-1 and SS-4, and, by 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing, the soil microbiomes consisted mainly of Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and other nonproteobacterial genera. However, analysis of eDNA isolated from cowpea nodules established by the trap plants showed that the nodule microbiome consisted almost exclusively of proteobacterial sequences, particularly species of Bradyrhizobium. Bacteria were isolated from both soils and nodules, and 34 of the 51 isolates tested positive for plant-growthpromoting rhizobacteria traits in plate assays. Many could serve as future inocula for crops in arid soils. The discrepancy between the types of bacteria isolated by culturing bacteria isolated from surface-sterilized cowpea nodules (proteobacteria and nonproteobacteria) versus those detected by sequencing DNA isolated from the nodules (proteobacteria) from cowpea nodules (proteobacteria and nonproteobacteria) versus those detected in the nodule microbiome (proteobacteria) needs further study.

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