1 May 2013
Phytoextraction makes use of trace element-accumulating plants that concentrate the pollutants in their tissues. Pollutants can be then removed by harvesting plants. The success of phytoextraction depends on trace element availability to the roots and the ability of the plant to intercept, take up, and accumulate trace elements in shoots. Current phytoextraction practises either employ hyperaccumulators or fast-growing high biomass plants; the phytoextraction process may be enhanced by soil amendments that increase trace element availability in the soil. This review will focus on the role of plant-associated bacteria to enhance trace element availability in the rhizosphere. We report on the kind of bacteria typically found in association with trace element – tolerating or – accumulating plants and discuss how they can contribute to improve trace element uptake by plants and thus the efficiency and rate of phytoextraction. This enhanced trace element uptake can be attributed to a microbial modification of the absorptive properties of the roots such as increasing the root length and surface area and numbers of root hairs, or by increasing the plant availability of trace elements in the rhizosphere and the subsequent translocation to shoots via beneficial effects on plant growth, trace element complexation and alleviation of phytotoxicity. An analysis of data from literature shows that effects of bacterial inoculation on phytoextraction efficiency are currently inconsistent. Some key processes in plant–bacteria interactions and colonization by inoculated strains still need to be unravelled more in detail to allow full-scale application of bacteria assisted phytoremediation of trace element contaminated soils.
► We discuss how bacteria can affect the efficiency and rate of phytoextraction. ► We review the mechanisms employed by bacteria leading to trace element mobilization. ► Effects of bacterial inoculation on phytoextraction efficiency are inconsistent.