Annals of Microbiology

, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 579–598 | Cite as

Soil beneficial bacteria and their role in plant growth promotion: a review

  • Rifat HayatEmail author
  • Safdar Ali
  • Ummay Amara
  • Rabia Khalid
  • Iftikhar Ahmed
Review Article


Soil bacteria are very important in biogeochemical cycles and have been used for crop production for decades. Plant–bacterial interactions in the rhizosphere are the determinants of plant health and soil fertility. Free-living soil bacteria beneficial to plant growth, usually referred to as plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), are capable of promoting plant growth by colonizing the plant root. PGPR are also termed plant health promoting rhizobacteria (PHPR) or nodule promoting rhizobacteria (NPR). These are associated with the rhizosphere, which is an important soil ecological environment for plant–microbe interactions. Symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria include the cyanobacteria of the genera Rhizobium, Bradyrhizobium, Azorhizobium, Allorhizobium, Sinorhizobium and Mesorhizobium. Free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria or associative nitrogen fixers, for example bacteria belonging to the species Azospirillum, Enterobacter, Klebsiella and Pseudomonas, have been shown to attach to the root and efficiently colonize root surfaces. PGPR have the potential to contribute to sustainable plant growth promotion. Generally, PGPR function in three different ways: synthesizing particular compounds for the plants, facilitating the uptake of certain nutrients from the soil, and lessening or preventing the plants from diseases. Plant growth promotion and development can be facilitated both directly and indirectly. Indirect plant growth promotion includes the prevention of the deleterious effects of phytopathogenic organisms. This can be achieved by the production of siderophores, i.e. small metal-binding molecules. Biological control of soil-borne plant pathogens and the synthesis of antibiotics have also been reported in several bacterial species. Another mechanism by which PGPR can inhibit phytopathogens is the production of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and/or fungal cell wall degrading enzymes, e.g., chitinase and ß-1,3-glucanase. Direct plant growth promotion includes symbiotic and non-symbiotic PGPR which function through production of plant hormones such as auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins, ethylene and abscisic acid. Production of indole-3-ethanol or indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), the compounds belonging to auxins, have been reported for several bacterial genera. Some PGPR function as a sink for 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate (ACC), the immediate precursor of ethylene in higher plants, by hydrolyzing it into α-ketobutyrate and ammonia, and in this way promote root growth by lowering indigenous ethylene levels in the micro-rhizo environment. PGPR also help in solubilization of mineral phosphates and other nutrients, enhance resistance to stress, stabilize soil aggregates, and improve soil structure and organic matter content. PGPR retain more soil organic N, and other nutrients in the plant–soil system, thus reducing the need for fertilizer N and P and enhancing release of the nutrients.


PGPR Symbiotic Non-symbiotic P-solubilization Phytohormones Biocontrol 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag and the University of Milan 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rifat Hayat
    • 1
    Email author
  • Safdar Ali
    • 1
  • Ummay Amara
    • 1
  • Rabia Khalid
    • 1
  • Iftikhar Ahmed
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Soil Science & SWCPMAS Arid Agriculture UniversityRawalpindiPakistan
  2. 2.Plant Biotechnology ProgramNational Agricultural Research CentreIslamabadPakistan

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