, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 1-19
Date: 20 May 2008

Role of plant growth promoting rhizobacteria in the remediation of metal contaminated soils

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Pollution of the biosphere by the toxic metals is a global threat that has accelerated dramatically since the beginning of industrial revolution. The primary source of this pollution includes the industrial operations such as mining, smelting, metal forging, combustion of fossil fuels and sewage sludge application in agronomic practices. The metals released from these sources accumulate in soil and in turn, adversely affect the microbial population density and physico-chemical properties of soils, leading to the loss of soil fertility and yield of crops. The heavy metals in general cannot be biologically degraded to more or less toxic products and hence, persist in the environment. Conventional methods used for metal detoxification produce large quantities of toxic products and are cost-effective. The advent of bioremediation technology has provided an alternative to conventional methods for remediating the metal-poisoned soils. In metal-contaminated soils, the natural role of metal-tolerant plant growth promoting rhizobacteria in maintaining soil fertility is more important than in conventional agriculture, where greater use of agrochemicals minimize their significance. Besides their role in metal detoxification/removal, rhizobacteria also promote the growth of plants by other mechanisms such as production of growth promoting substances and siderophores. Phytoremediation is another emerging low-cost in situ technology employed to remove pollutants from the contaminated soils. The efficiency of phytoremediation can be enhanced by the judicious and careful application of appropriate heavy-metal tolerant, plant growth promoting rhizobacteria including symbiotic nitrogen-fixing organisms. This review presents the results of studies on the recent developments in the utilization of plant growth promoting rhizobacteria for direct application in soils contaminated with heavy metals under a wide range of agro-ecological conditions with a view to restore contaminated soils and consequently, promote crop productivity in metal-polluted soils across the globe and their significance in phytoremediation.

An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10311-011-0338-y