Heavy metals are regarded as toxic trace elements in the environment. Heavy metal pollution in soil or rice grains is of increasing concern. In this study, 101 pairs of soil and rice samples were collected from the major rice-producing areas along the Yangtze River in China. The soil properties and heavy metal (i.e., Cd, Hg, Pb and Cr) concentrations in the soil and rice grains were analyzed to evaluate the heavy metal accumulation characteristics of the soil-rice systems. The results showed that the Cd, Hg, Pb and Cr concentrations in the soil ranged from 0.10 to 4.64, 0.01 to 1.46, 7.64 to 127.56, and 13.52 to 231.02 mg·kg(-)¹, respectively. Approximately 37%, 16%, 60% and 70% of the rice grain samples were polluted by Cd, Hg, Pb, and Cr, respectively. The degree of heavy metal contamination in the soil-rice systems exhibited a regional variation. The interactions among the heavy metal elements may also influence the migration and accumulation of heavy metals in soil or paddy rice. The accumulation of heavy metals in soil and rice grains is related to a certain extent to the pH and soil organic matter (SOM). This study provides useful information regarding heavy metal accumulation in soil to support the safe production of rice in China. The findings from this study also provide a robust scientific basis for risk assessments regarding ecological protection and food safety.
Keywords: Yangtze River region; heavy metal accumulation; pollution characteristics; soil-rice system.