Phylogeography and Symbiotic Effectiveness of Rhizobia Nodulating Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) in Ethiopia

A.H. Gunnabo*, J. van Heerwaarden*, R. Geurts, E. Wolde-meskel, T. Degefu, K.E. Giller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) used to be considered a restrictive host that nodulated and fixed nitrogen only with Mesorhizobium ciceri and M. mediterraneum. Recent analysis revealed that chickpea can also establish effective symbioses with strains of several other Mesorhizobium species such as M. loti, M. haukuii, M. amorphae, M. muleiense, etc. These strains vary in their nitrogen fixation potential inviting further exploration. We characterized newly collected mesorhizobial strains isolated from various locations in Ethiopia to evaluate genetic diversity, biogeographic structure and symbiotic effectiveness. Symbiotic effectiveness was evaluated in Leonard Jars using a locally released chickpea cultivar “Nattoli”. Most of the new isolates belonged to a clade related to M. plurifarium, with very few sequence differences, while the total collection of strains contained three additional mesorhizobial genospecies associated with M. ciceri, M. abyssinicae and an unidentified Mesorhizobium species isolated from a wild host in Eritrea. The four genospecies identified represented a subset of the eight major Mesorhizobium clades recently reported for Ethiopia based on metagenomic data. All Ethiopian strains had nearly identical symbiotic genes that grouped them in a single cluster with M. ciceri, M. mediterraneum and M. muleiense, but not with M. plurifarium. Some phylogeographic structure was observed, with elevation and geography explaining some of the genetic differences among strains, but the relation between genetic identity and symbiotic effectiveness was observed to be weak.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-716
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date24 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Genetic diversity
  • Genospecies
  • Haplotypes
  • Mesorhizobial strains
  • Nucleotides
  • Spatial patterns


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