Background: Allelopathy is an ecological phenomenon consisting of both positive and negative effects between organisms determined by the release of secondary metabolites into the environment. Root exudation represents the most important pathway of releasing allelochemicals. Once released into the soil, allelochemicals interact with the organic and inorganic soil phases, as well as with soil microorganisms. The set of these interactions fix allelochemicals bioavailability and phytotoxic level. Scope: Here we critically review the interactions between plant allelochemicals and physical, chemical and biological soil characteristics by reporting the literature available and pointing out both positive and negative relationships affecting allelochemicals phytotoxicity and nutrient availability. In addition, we have reported a qualitative balance of allelochemicals in the soil. Thirdly, we reviewed the exudation process of allelochemicals and the transport mechanisms across plasma membranes. Conclusions: A two-way relationship exists between soil characteristics and allelochemicals. The level of phytotoxicity is not affected only by a single soil characteristic, but they are closely linked to each other and exert a multiple-effect on retention, transport and transformation processes of allelochemicals in soil. Further efforts are needed to better understand the interactions involved in soil allelopathy and to create new opportunities for a sustainable control of agroecosystems.
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