The use of microbial biostimulants such as plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPB) and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) has gained popularity in recent years as a sustainable approach to boost yield as well as the quality of produce. The beneficial effects of microbial biostimulants have been reported numerous times. However, information is missing concerning quantitative assessment of the overall impact of microbial biostimulants on the yield and quality of vegetable crops. Here we provide for the first time a comprehensive, semi-systematic review of the effects of microbial biostimulants allowed by Regulation (EU) 2019/1009, including microorganisms belonging to the AMF (phylum Glomeromycota), or to Azospirillum, Azotobacter and Rhizobium genera, on vegetable crops' quality and yield, with rigorous inclusion and exclusion criteria based on the PRISMA method. We identified, selected and critically evaluated all the relevant research studies from 2010 onward in order to provide a critical appraisal of the most recent findings related to these EU-allowed microbial biostimulants and their effects on vegetable crops' quality and yield. Moreover, we highlighted which vegetable crops received more beneficial effects from specific microbial biostimulants and the protocols employed for plant inoculation. Our study is intended to draw more attention from the scientific community to this important instrument to produce nutrient-dense vegetables in a sustainable manner. Finally, our semi-systematic review provides important microbial biostimulant application guidelines and gives extension specialists and vegetable growers insights into achieving an additional benefit from microbial biostimulant application.
Keywords: Azospirillum; Azotobacter; PRISMA method; Rhizobium; arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF); nutritional quality; plant growth-promoting bacteria.