Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 115–128 | Cite as

Degradation of citrate promotes copper co-precipitation within aluminium-(hydr)oxides in calcareous soils

  • Roberto TerzanoEmail author
  • Giovanni Cuccovillo
  • Silvia Pascazio
  • Carmine Crecchio
  • Antonio Lettino
  • Saverio Fiore
  • Nicola Tomasi
  • Roberto Pinton
  • Tanja Mimmo
  • Stefano Cesco
Original Paper


In this study, we provide experimental evidences that in calcareous soils microbial degradation/decomposition of citrate can promote Al-(hydr)oxide precipitation concurrently decreasing copper (Cu) solubility by a coprecipitation process. Citrate is an organic acid anion commonly released by roots to increase nutrient availability or to limit Al toxicity. However, under specific environmental conditions (i.e. high microbial activity of Al-citrate-degrading bacteria, alkaline pH), this organic acid may become ineffective in mobilizing Cu for the plant acquisition process. To demonstrate this, a calcareous soil and an artificial soil system have been treated with citrate solutions; then, changes in Al and Cu solubility and the formation of Cu-containing Al-(hydr)oxides were monitored. Both in experiments with the artificial soil and in those where the soil was inoculated with microbial strains, the formation of Cu-Al coprecipitates not only occurred but was also concurrent with the decrease of Cu and Al solubility. The role of bacteria in metal-citrate complex degradation has been assessed, and the 16S rDNA of bacteria related with these processes has been sequenced for genus identification. Bacteria belonging to Pseudomonas, Sphingomonas, Bradyrhizobium and Sphingopixis have been identified as possible candidates to degrade Al- and Cu-citrate complexes thus triggering the metal precipitation phenomena.


Citrate Coprecipitation Copper Aluminium Soil microorganisms Calcareous soil 



Research was supported by grants from Italian Ministry of University and Reserach-MIUR (FIRB-Programme “Futuro in Ricerca”). We are grateful to Prof. Em. Pacifico Ruggiero of the University of Bari (Italy) and Dr. Matthieu Bravin of CIRAD (France) for their critical review of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

374_2016_1164_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (221 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 220 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberto Terzano
    • 1
    Email author
  • Giovanni Cuccovillo
    • 1
  • Silvia Pascazio
    • 1
  • Carmine Crecchio
    • 1
  • Antonio Lettino
    • 2
  • Saverio Fiore
    • 2
  • Nicola Tomasi
    • 3
  • Roberto Pinton
    • 3
  • Tanja Mimmo
    • 4
  • Stefano Cesco
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Soil, Plant and Food SciencesUniversity of Bari “Aldo Moro”BariItaly
  2. 2.Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis, C.N.RTito ScaloItaly
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesUniversity of UdineUdineItaly
  4. 4.Faculty of Science and TechnologyFree University of BolzanoBolzanoItaly

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