, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 29-43

Role of phosphate-solubilizing microorganisms in sustainable agriculture — A review

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Compared with the other major nutrients, phosphorus is by far the least mobile and available to plants in most soil conditions. Although phosphorus is abundant in soils in both organic and inorganic forms, it is frequently a major or even the prime limiting factor for plant growth. The bioavailability of soil inorganic phosphorus in the rhizosphere varies considerably with plant species, nutritional status of soil and ambient soil conditions. To circumvent phosphorus deficiency, phosphate-solubilizing microorganisms (PSM) could play an important role in supplying phosphate to plants in a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable manner. The solubilization of phosphatic compounds by naturally abundant PSM is very common under in vitro conditions; the performance of PSM in situ has been contradictory. The variability in the performance has thus greatly hampered the large-scale application of PSM in sustainable agriculture. Numerous reasons have been suggested for this, but none of them have been conclusively investigated. Despite the variations in their performance, PSM are widely applied in agronomic practices in order to increase the productivity of crops while maintaining the health of soils. This review presents the results of studies on the utilization of PSM for direct application in agriculture under a wide range of agro-ecological conditions with a view to fostering sustainable agricultural intensification in developing countries of the tropics and subtropics.