Food Futures Institute

National Rhizobium Steering Committee

Legumes form a symbiotic association with a group of soil bacteria called rhizobia. The rhizobia form nodules on legume roots that enable the plant to fix atmospheric nitrogen into plant-available nitrogen. In farming systems, this biological nitrogen fixation reduces reliance on industrially synthesised fertilisers. The use of rhizobia as an inoculant on legume crops saves the agricultural industry approximately $3.5 billion each year in applied nitrogen costs.

Since the 1950s, through extensive research by Australian universities, CSIRO and state agencies, elite strains of rhizobia have been selected as commercial inoculants. These inoculants are effective at nodulating and fixing nitrogen on target legume species. Recommended inoculants are mass-produced in peat, freeze-dried, granular or liquid form by commercial inoculant companies, purchased by the grower, then applied to the soil or legume seed just prior to sowing. This farming practice introduces large numbers of nitrogen-fixing rhizobia in close proximity to the emerging legume root and enhances the opportunity for the rhizobia to nodulate and fix nitrogen with the plant.

Chickpea nodules on plant roots
Chickpea nodules on plant roots.

The Committee

The National Rhizobium Steering Committee (NRSC) is comprised of highly experienced rhizobial scientists from all over Australia.

The role of the NRSC is to ensure the quality of commercial rhizobial inoculant strains is maintained for the benefit of Australian growers by providing oversight and knowledge to the industry. The NRSC assess, endorse and monitor the rhizobial strains and carriers (formulations) that are manufactured by the inoculant industry for sale and use by Australian farmers. The NRSC aims to protect the industry against strains that don’t have effective science supporting their use while protecting farmers from using poor quality inoculants. The NRSC also ensures science connects with industry needs through strong and vigorous relationships with commercial inoculant manufacturers.

The NRSC achieves this by holding bi-annual Committee meetings to assess the efficacy of the current rhizobial inoculant strains and discuss updated scientific findings relevant to the industry. The NRSC works closely with the Grains Research Development Corporation (GRDC) and hosts annual workshops and discussion panels with Australian commercial inoculant manufacturers.

For further information on the NRSC or its members, contact Dr Graham O’Hara at

Glasshouse chickpea trials
Glasshouse chickpea trials.

NRSC members


Dr Graham O’Hara
Legume Rhizobium Sciences (LRS) and Murdoch University
Perth, Western Australia

Executive Officer

Helen Shortland-Jones
LRS and Murdoch University
Perth, Western Australia


Dr Ron Yates
Legume Rhizobium Sciences (LRS), Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Murdoch University
Perth, Western Australia

Dr David Herridge
University of New England
Armidale, New South Wales

Dr Belinda Hackney
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI)
Orange, New South Wales

Dr Jessica Rigg
Australian Inoculants Research Group (AIRG - DPI NSW)
Menangle, New South Wales

Dr Rosalind Deaker
University of Sydney
Sydney, New South Wales

Ross Ballard
Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) – South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI)
Adelaide, South Australia

Dr Liz Farquharson
Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) – South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI)
Adelaide, South Australia

Dr Matthew Denton
University of Adelaide
Adelaide, South Australia

Useful links

Inoculating Legumes: Practice and Science

This handbook was written collaboratively by a group of Australian experts in the field of rhizobiology and nitrogen fixation from universities and state departments. The target audience includes growers, grower groups, commercial and government advisers, agribusiness, research agronomists, legume breeders, seed pelleters, resellers and seed merchants. Users of the handbook should gain increased knowledge of legumes and legume nodulation in farming systems and benefit from more effective inoculation practice on their farm leading to higher farm productivity through enhanced legume nitrogen fixation and system nitrogen supply.

Learn more

Inoculating Legumes: Practice and Science

Australian Inoculants Research Group (AIRG)

AIRG controls and maintains the quality of legume inoculants through collaboration with industry, universities and Research and Development (R&D) bodies.

Learn more


AIRG National Code of Practice (CoP)

The National Code of Practice (CoP) was developed by the Australian Inoculants Research Group (AIRG; DPI-NSW) in collaboration with state agencies and researchers to establish a set of independent protocols and testing standards for assessing the quality of legume inoculant products. Inoculant companies, who are signatory to the COP and produce inoculants that comply to the standards, can display a NSW DPI registered trademark green tick quality logo on their product.

The CoP is currently being updated and a link will be posted here shortly.

AIRG National Code of Practice