Legumes in prairie restoration: evidence for wide cross-nodulation and improved inoculant delivery

Plant and Soil
By: , and 



Background and aims

Prairie restoration aims to create self-sustaining, resilient prairies that ameliorate biodiversity loss and soil deterioration associated with conversion of native grasslands to agriculture. Legumes are a key component of the nitrogen-limited prairie ecosystem. Evidence suggests that lack of suitable rhizobia may explain legume absence from restored prairies. This study explores effects of novel alternative inoculant delivery methods on: (a) prairie legume establishment, (b) soil biological properties, and (c) inoculant strain ability to nodulate the host over time.


Alternative inoculation methods for seven legume species were tested in a replicated field experiment. Legume establishment, microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen, and rhizobial inoculant strain recovery were measured over a 3-year period.


Legume species richness in the second growing season was enhanced by a soil-applied granular clay inoculant, while seed-applied powdered peat inoculation was generally ineffective. When Dalea rhizobia were recovered 3-year after planting, only 2 % from the seed-applied inoculation treatment identified with the inoculant strains, whereas this amount ranged from 53 to 100 % in the other inoculation treatments. Some legumes established unexpectedly effective symbioses with strains not originally intended for them.


Results provide new insights on inoculation of native legumes, especially when a mix of seeds is involved and the restoration targets harsh environments.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Legumes in prairie restoration: evidence for wide cross-nodulation and improved inoculant delivery
Series title Plant and Soil
DOI 10.1007/s11104-013-1999-z
Volume 377
Issue 1-2
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 14 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Plant and Soil
First page 245
Last page 258
Country United States
State Minnesota
City Becker
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