Screening and field evaluation of white clover rhizobia for New.pdf (624.18 kB)

Screening and field evaluation of white clover rhizobia for New Zealand pastures

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Context: Biological nitrogen (N) fixation through the rhizobia–legume symbiosis is a sustainable and cost-effective source of N for agriculture. In New Zealand (NZ), white clover (Trifolium repens) is a key component of pastures and rhizobial inoculation of clover is widely used. The current commercial inoculant for white clover, TA1, was isolated in Australia in the 1950s and may not be the best partner for modern white clover cultivars. 

Aims: To identify Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii (Rlt) isolates suitable for use in NZ pastures. 

Methods: The symbiotic potential of >230 isolates collected from throughout NZ was evaluated in plant bioassays. Selected isolates were further evaluated in pot and field trials. 

Key results: Approximately 40% of NZ isolates supported better clover growth than TA1 under N-limited conditions in vitro. Of 24 Rlt isolates evaluated in a glasshouse trial, five produced significantly higher clover biomass than TA1. Three (S11N9, S20N7, S4N6) of nine isolates evaluated in two field trials in 2018–2019 significantly increased clover growth (12–38%) compared with paired uninoculated clover at several harvests, whereas inoculation with TA1 did not improve yield. In a third trial in 2020, S11N9 and S20N7 increased clover growth compared with the uninoculated control at two of three harvests; S4N6 performed better than TA1 at one harvest. When tested with four white clover cultivars, five Rlt isolates had higher symbiotic potential than TA1. 

Conclusions: Inoculating white clover would be beneficial if improved inoculant isolates were available. 

Implications: We recommend some NZ Rlt isolates could be developed into commercial inoculants to improve white clover performance in NZ.


New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

‘Improving legume-rhizobia symbiosis’ (Contract No. C10X1308)

DairyNZ (CB1902)


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© 2023 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Publication date


Project number

  • PRJ0279788


  • English

Does this contain Māori information or data?

  • No


CSIRO Publishing

Journal title

Crop and Pasture Science