Seed inoculation with effective root-nodule bacteria enhances revegetation success.

Published online
21 Sep 2005
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Thrall, P. H. & Millsom, D. A. & Jeavons, A. C. & Waayers, M. & Harvey, G. R. & Bagnall, D. J. & Brockwell, J.
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Publication language
Australia & New South Wales & Victoria


Extensive clearing of native vegetation in Australia has contributed to major environmental problems, including land degradation, dryland salinity, soil erosion and loss of biodiversity. Re-establishing cover with deep-rooted perennial species is a major focus for conservation and sustainable land management, particularly with regard to hydrological control of recharge and saline discharge areas. However, considerable expense is involved in large-scale revegetation programmes and cost effectiveness is a real concern. Low-cost revegetation approaches are needed that require little maintenance yet can substantially enhance reliable establishment and growth of native trees and shrubs. We evaluated results from direct-seeding field trials conducted in north-central Victoria and south-eastern New South Wales, Australia, and examined the benefits of using native Australian Acacia species inoculated with effective strains of nitrogen-fixing root-nodule bacteria to revegetate degraded landscapes. On average, inoculation led to a 118% increase in establishment of acacia seedlings, indicating that the use of elite strains of native bacteria can substantially reduce seed requirements. This is a major benefit given the expense of collecting sufficient native seed and the impacts of this activity on remnant population viability. Particularly at sites experiencing harsher climatic conditions, subsequent survival of inoculated seedlings was significantly greater than for uninoculated controls. Moreover, inoculated acacias grew 10-58% faster than uninoculated controls during the critical early phase of establishment, although this varied among species and sites. Inoculation of Acacia species or other native leguminous shrubs and trees with elite strains of native rhizobia as part of direct-seeding techniques has the potential to increase the scope, rate and success of land restoration world-wide. Re-establishment of important plant-soil interactions in degraded soils can contribute significantly to the development of biodiverse self-regenerating native ecosystems in agricultural landscapes.

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