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Soil metal contamination, particularly by copper, is a phenomenon which often occurs in the surface layer of vineyard soils, due to the widespread application of Cu-based products in the plant disease management. Our study was focused on soil Cu and Zn accumulation and bioavailability as related to some soil properties under a long term vineyard cultivation, in a D.O.C. wine area of South Italy (Calabria region). Soils selected from different landscape units, ranging from acid to alkaline, under homogeneous climate conditions and vineyard management system, were investigated. Each soil was sampled in both a vineyard and a fallow area, at the depth levels of 0-10 cm, 10-25 cm and 25-50 cm. The experimental data were analysed by ANOVA, correlation and multiple stepwise regression procedures. As expected, the results indicated a contamination of the vineyard soils by Cu due to the repeated application of Cu-based products in the plant disease control, with increments of total Cu content up to 150% against the fallow soils. On the contrary, the results led to exclude any soil Zn pollution due to the vineyard management and to suppose a main pedogenic origin for this metal. According to the relationships between Cu content and soil properties, Cu accumulation was promoted by higher pH, clay and organic matter contents. These soil properties also showed a strong influence on metal bioavailability, which underwent a significant reduction in soils with higher pH and clay contents. A further result of great significance was the adverse impact of soil erosion, enhanced by the application of not suitable management systems in hilly areas, on soil capability to retain polluting metals. Soil pH, organic matter content and texture, as well as soil management system, are key factors in soil capability to limit polluting metal dispersion in the environment.
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