With the increasing industrial activity of the growing human population, the accumulation of various contaminants in soil, including heavy metals, has increased rapidly. Heavy metals as non-biodegradable elements persist in the soil environment and may pollute crop plants, further accumulating in the human body causing serious conditions. Hence, phytoremediation of land contamination as an environmental restoration technology is desirable for both human health and broad-sense ecology. Legumes (Fabaceae
), which play a special role in nitrogen cycling, are dominant plants in contaminated areas. Therefore, the use of legumes and associated nitrogen-fixing rhizobia to reduce the concentrations or toxic effects of contaminants in the soil is environmentally friendly and becomes a promising strategy for phytoremediation and phytostabilization. Rhizobia, which have such plant growth-promoting (PGP) features as phosphorus solubilization, phytohormone synthesis, siderophore release, production of beneficial compounds for plants, and most of all nitrogen fixation, may promote legume growth while diminishing metal toxicity. The aim of the present review is to provide a comprehensive description of the main effects of metal contaminants in nitrogen-fixing leguminous plants and the benefits of using the legume–rhizobium symbiosis with both wild-type and genetically modified plants and bacteria to enhance an efficient recovery of contaminated lands.
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