A soil isolate of Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii was marked with a lux CDABE gene cassette to enable the expression of bioluminescence. The suitability of the bacterium as a soil pollution biosensor was assessed using acute and chronic assays. Bacterial bioluminescence responded sensitively to the metals studied. The order of sensitivity was found to be Cd > Ni = Zn > Cu for the acute test and Cd > Ni = Zn = Cu for the chronic test. The sensitive response of the biosensor highlighted its potential for use as an indicator of soil pollution.