The general inaccessibility of soil phosphorous (P) to plants in combination with the depletion of global P reserves provides an incentive for researchers to find sustainable solutions to sustain food security for the ever-increasing world population. Bio-fertilizers based on bacteria and fungi able to solubilize endogenous P in soils have a high potential for increasing nutrient availability in agriculture. However, the inconsistency of bio-fertilizer performance in the field poses a major challenge for farmers. This discrepancy is thought to stem from the complexity of the interactions between crop plants, microbes, and their soil environments, as well as our lack of understanding of the processes involved. For farmers, a clear beneficial effect across different soil types, crop species, environmental conditions, and microbial communities will be required to make it worth to adopt bio-fertilizer technology based on phosphate-solubilizing microbes (PSMs). Here, we attempt to review the current knowledge of the complexity of the P-solubilization mechanisms used by PSMs and how they may be affected by interactions in the field. We also identify possible explanations for the inconsistent performance of P-solubilizing bacteria in the field and ways to solve these obstacles.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank KAUST for their financial support, Florian Mette for his highly useful comments, the members of the Center for Desert Agriculture, and the Hirt’s lab group members for their support and fruitful discussion.