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The effect of heavy metals on dinitrogen fixation by Rhizobium-white colover in a range of long-term sewage sludge amended and metal-contaminated soils.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1993
<mark>Journal</mark>Environmental Pollution
Issue number2
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)105-112
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


An investigation was conducted to determine whether effective strains of Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar. trifolii capable of symbiotic N2 fixation with white clover (Trifolium repens) were present in a range of metal-contaminated soils. A number of historically sewage-amended sites (including experimental, pasture grassland and arable sites) were selected and compared with highly contaminated samples from abandoned heavy metal mines. Many sites had metal concentrations above the limits established by the UK Government, based on those developed by the European Commission (EC) for sludge-amended soils. Acetylene reduction activity (ARA) was used to screen the samples for effective N2 fixation. When the host plant was indigenous to the sward, rhizobia were found in the nodules and in the soil rhizosphere at all the sites tested. They were shown to be capable of effective symbiosis and N2 fixation, even though metal concentrations greatly exceeded the soil metal limits in some cases. However, nodulation failed to occur in some cases where T. repens was not indigenous to metal-contaminated soils. This indicated either that an ineffective rhizobial population was present, or that effective cells were absent from the soil. The influence of individual metals on ARA could not be determined conclusively because of the confounding effects of soil physicochemical variability and the presence of different metals at high concentrations together in the soil. However, Cd concentrations appeared to be particularly important in determining the presence of effective ARA in soils with no indigenous clover. In contrast to previous studies, the results presented here suggest that heavy metals may have had a quantitative effect on the free-living population of rhizobia, rather than a genetic effect.