ABSTRACT This study aimed to explore the effects of two siderophore-producing bacterial strains on iron absorption and plant growth of peanut in calcareous soil. Two siderophore-producing bacterial strains, namely, YZ29 and DZ13, isolated from the rhizosphere soil of peanut, were identified as Paenibacillus illinoisensis and Bacillus sp., respectively. In potted experiments, YZ29 and DZ13 enhanced root activity, chlorophyll and active iron content in leaves, total nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium accumulation of plants and increased the quality of peanut kernels and plant biomass over control. In the field trial, the inoculated treatments performed better than the controls, and the pod yields of the three treatments inoculated with YZ29, DZ13, and YZ29 + DZ13 (1:1) increased by 37.05%, 13.80% and 13.57%, respectively, compared with the control. Based on terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis, YZ29 and DZ13 improved the bacterial community richness and species diversity of soil surrounding the peanut roots. Therefore, YZ29 and DZ13 can be used as candidate bacterial strains to relieve chlorosis of peanut and promote peanut growth. The present study is the first to explore the effect of siderophores produced by P. illinoisensis on iron absorption.