, Volume 245, Issue 1, pp 83-93

Role of soil microorganisms in improving P nutrition of plants

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Phosphorus (P) is one of the major plant growth-limiting nutrients although it is abundant in soils in both inorganic and organic forms. Phosphate solubilizing micro-organisms (PSMs) are ubiquitous in soils and could play an important role in supplying P to plants in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. Although solubilization of P compounds by microbes is very common under laboratory conditions, results in the field have been highly variable. This variability has hampered the large-scale use of PSMs in agriculture. Many reasons have been suggested for this variability, but none of them have been extensively investigated. In spite of the importance of PSMs in agriculture, the detailed biochemical and molecular mechanisms of P solubilization are not known. Recent work in our laboratory has shown that the conditions employed to isolate PSMs do not reflect soil conditions and that PSMs capable of effectively releasing P from soil are not so highly abundant as was suggested in earlier studies. These studies have also indicated that the mineral phosphate solubilizing (mps) ability of microbes could be linked to specific genes, and that these genes are present even in non P solubilizing bacteria. Understanding the genetic basis of P solubilization could help in transforming more rhizosphere-competent bacteria into PSMs. Further research should also focus on the microbial solubilization of iron (Fe) and aluminum (Al) phosphates, as well as mobilization of the organic phosphate reserves present in the soils.