This chapter increases the knowledge on the management of Cu-contaminated Mediterranean agricultural soils, by analysing the current soil quality standards for different Mediterranean regions and proposing new criteria for their establishment based on the influence of soil properties and type of crop. We evaluate the effect of Cu and its interaction with soil properties on biomass production of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), by establishing the effective concentrations EC50 and EC10 (effective concentrations of Cu in soil that reduces biomass production by 50 and 10%, respectively), and its absorption, translocation and accumulation in the different parts of the plant. Two different biomass assays were carried out in seven types of Mediterranean agricultural soils (four from Europe and three from Australia) contaminated with different Cu concentrations. When lettuce was grown, similar toxic effects and accumulation values were obtained for both of the agricultural areas under analysis. In both cases, the maximum threshold value was obtained for the soil having the highest pH and clay content, independently of the soil type. When comparing both crops in the European Mediterranean soils, toxicity values calculated for tomato were higher, and translocation of Cu to the fruit was constantly low, independently of the Cu dose. Moreover, tomato showed an important phytoremediation potential, extracting Cu from not only low–medium but also from highly (>1700 mg/kg) Cu-contaminated basic agricultural soils, and having low translocation rates to fruits. The analysis of the influence of soil properties on the effect of Cu on plant biomass production led to similar conclusions in both assays. SOM, clay content and CEC are the most relevant properties affecting the dynamic of Cu in soil. Considering this, for the type of crops and soils considered, the effect of Cu on plant biomass production was the most relevant of those analysed, and pH, clay content, SOM and CEC the most relevant soil properties. Therefore, these aspects should be considered when establishing adequate soil quality standards and proposing adequate soil management practices.
Part of the book: Soil Contamination