Humans require at least 10 essential trace elements (B, Cu, F, I, Fe, Mn, Mo, Ni, Se, and Zn). The foods produced from farmer fields are the primary suppliers of these nutrients. Vast numbers of people, primarily women, infants, and children, are afflicted with trace element deficiencies (notably Fe, I, Se, and Zn) mostly in the resource-poor countries of the developing world. Micronutrient malnutrition (which includes both trace element and vitamin deficiencies) is the result of dysfunctional food systems based in agricultural systems that do not meet all human nutritional needs. Agricultural tools can be used to address micronutrient malnutrition. These tools include the biofortification strategies of plant breeding and use of trace element fertilizers. Zinc may be the key nutrient in reducing micronutrient malnutrition in many nations because nutrient interactions with Zn are important issues. Breeding staple plant foods for higher levels of prebiotics in edible portions is suggested as the most effective means of improving the bioavailability to humans of essential trace elements in plant foods. This review advocates that it is imperative that agriculture be closely linked to human nutrition and health and that fertilizer technology be used to improve the nutritional quality of staple food crops that feed the world’s malnourished poor.
Welch, R.M.; Graham, R.D. Perspectives on Enhancing the Nutritional Quality of Food Crops with Trace Elements. In: Bruulsema, T.; Heffer, P.; Welch, R.; Cakmak, I.; Moran, K. (Eds). Fertilizing Crops to Improve Human Health: a Scientific Review. Volume 1. Food and Nutrition Security. IFA, Paris, France (2012) 65-96.