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Four soil samples (SS-1-SS-4) isolated from semi-arid soils in Punjab, Pakistan were used as inocula for cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L.) grown under salinity stress to analyze the composition of bacteria in the rhizosphere and within nodules through cultivation-dependent and cultivation-independent methods. Two cowpea varieties, 603 and the salt-tolerant CB 46, were each inoculated with four different native soil samples, and data showed that plants inoculated with soil samples SS-2 and SS-4 grew better than plants inoculated with soil samples SS-1 and SS-3. Bacteria were isolated from both soils and nodules, and 34 of the 51 original isolates tested positive for PGPR traits in plate assays with many exhibiting multiple plant growth-promoting properties. A number of isolates were positive for all PGPR traits tested. For the microbiome studies, environmental DNA (eDNA) was isolated from SS-1 and SS-4, which represented the extremes of the Pakistan soils to which the plants responded, and by 16S rRNA gene sequencing analysis were found to consist mainly of Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria. However, sequencing analysis of eDNA isolated from cowpea nodules established by the trap plants grown in the four Pakistan soils indicated that the nodule microbiome consisted almost exclusively of Proteobacterial sequences, particularly Bradyrhizobium. Yet, many other bacteria including Rhizobium, Mesorhizobium, Pseudomonas, as well as Paenibacillus, Bacillus as well as non-proteobacterial genera were isolated from the nodules of soil-inoculated cowpea plants. This discrepancy between the bacteria isolated from cowpea nodules (Proteobacteria and non-Proteobacteria) versus those detected in the nodule microbiome (Proteobacteria) needs further study.

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