Selenium (Se) is an essential micronutrient for humans and animals, with antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-viral effects, and wheat is an important dietary source of this element. In this study, surveys of Se concentration in grain of ancestral and wild relatives of wheat, wheat landrace accessions, populations, and commercial cultivars grown in Mexico and Australia were conducted. Cultivars were also grown under the same conditions to assess genotypic variation in Se density. Eleven data sets were reviewed with the aim of assessing the comparative worth of breeding compared with fertilising as a strategy to improve Se intake in human populations. Surveys and field trials that included diverse wheat germplasm as well as other cereals found grain Se concentrations in the range 5-720μgkg−1, but much of this variation was associated with spatial variation in soil selenium. This study detected no significant genotypic variation in grain Se density among modern commercial bread or durum wheat, triticale or barley varieties. However, the diploid wheat, Aegilops tauschii and rye were 42% and 35% higher, respectively, in grain Se concentration than other cereals in separate field trials, and, in a hydroponic trial, rye was 40% higher in foliar Se content than two wheat landraces. While genotypic differences may exist in modern wheat varieties, they are likely to be small in comparison with background soil variation, at least in Australia and Mexico. Field sites that are spatially very uniform in available soil Se would be needed to allow comparison of grain Se concentration and content in order to assess genotypic variation.
Plant and Soil (2005) 269 (1-2) 369-380 [doi: 10.1007/s11104-004-0909-9]