Symbiosis between Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii strain TA1 and a white clover cultivar benefits clover tolerance to cadmium toxicity
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New Zealand pastoral productivity relies heavily on biological nitrogen (N) fixation from rhizobia bacteria. Cadmium (Cd), present in pasture soils as an impurity in phosphate fertilisers, may have toxic effects on both plant growth and rhizobia activity. Effects of Cd on growth of seedlings of a white clover cultivar ‘Grasslands Tribute’, in the absence and presence of the N2-fixing Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii strain TA1, were assessed in vermiculite microcosm assays. The lowest observable effect concentrations resulting in significantly lower white clover shoot weights than those grown without Cd were 0.07 mg Cd kg−1 (measured as Ca(NO3)2-extractable Cd, Cdextractable) in the absence of Rhizobium, and 2.33 mg Cdextractable kg−1 for Rhizobium-inoculated seedlings. Shoot N content was unaffected in white clover exposed to <5 mg Cdextractable kg−1. The results indicate symbiosis with Rhizobium strain TA1 conferred tolerance to white clover ‘Grasslands Tribute’ against Cd toxicity, and that this symbiosis is unlikely to be adversely affected by Cd concentrations reported (<0.003 mg Cdextractable kg−1) in New Zealand pasture soils.