Not just passengers, but co-pilots! Non-rhizobial nodule-associated bacteria promote cowpea growth and symbiosis with (brady)rhizobia

J Appl Microbiol. 2023 Jan 23;134(1):lxac013. doi: 10.1093/jambio/lxac013.


Aims: To isolate and characterize non-rhizobial nodule-associated bacteria (NAB) from cowpea root-nodules regarding their performance of plant-growth-promoting mechanisms and their ability to enhance cowpea growth and symbiosis when co-inoculated with bradyrhizobia.

Methods and results: Sixteen NAB were isolated, identified, and in vitro evaluated for plant growth promotion traits. The ability to promote cowpea growth was analyzed when co-inoculated with Bradyrhizobium pachyrhizi BR 3262 in sterile and non-sterile substrates. The 16S rRNA gene sequences analysis revealed that NAB belonged to the genera Chryseobacterium (4), Bacillus (3), Microbacterium (3), Agrobacterium (1), Escherichia (1), Delftia (1), Pelomonas (1), Sphingomonas (1), and Staphylococcus (1). All strains produced different amounts of auxin siderophores and formed biofilms. Twelve out of the 16 strains carried the nifH, a gene associated with nitrogen fixation. Co-inoculation of NAB (ESA 424 and ESA 29) with Bradyrhizobium pachyrhizi BR 3262 significantly promoted cowpea growth, especially after simultaneous inoculation with the three strains.

Conclusions: NAB are efficient cowpea growth promoters and can improve the efficiency of the symbiosis between cowpea and the N2-fixing microsymbiont B. pachyrhizi BR 3262, mainly under a specific triple microbial association.

Keywords: Bradyrhizobium pachyrhizi; Vigna unguiculata; biological nitrogen fixation; indole-3-acetic acid; nodules-associated bacteria (NAB); siderophores.

MeSH terms

  • Bradyrhizobium* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Nitrogen Fixation
  • Phylogeny
  • Pilots*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Rhizobium* / genetics
  • Root Nodules, Plant / microbiology
  • Symbiosis / genetics
  • Vigna* / genetics
  • Vigna* / microbiology


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Supplementary concepts

  • Bradyrhizobium pachyrhizi