Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 537–548

Soil factors associated with zinc deficiency in crops and humans

Review Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10653-009-9255-4

Cite this article as:
Alloway, B.J. Environ Geochem Health (2009) 31: 537. doi:10.1007/s10653-009-9255-4


Zinc deficiency is the most ubiquitous micronutrient deficiency problem in world crops. Zinc is essential for both plants and animals because it is a structural constituent and regulatory co-factor in enzymes and proteins involved in many biochemical pathways. Millions of hectares of cropland are affected by Zn deficiency and approximately one-third of the human population suffers from an inadequate intake of Zn. The main soil factors affecting the availability of Zn to plants are low total Zn contents, high pH, high calcite and organic matter contents and high concentrations of Na, Ca, Mg, bicarbonate and phosphate in the soil solution or in labile forms. Maize is the most susceptible cereal crop, but wheat grown on calcareous soils and lowland rice on flooded soils are also highly prone to Zn deficiency. Zinc fertilizers are used in the prevention of Zn deficiency and in the biofortification of cereal grains.


Zinc deficiencyCropsHuman healthSoilsSoil conditionsFertilizersBiofortification

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Soil Science, School of Human and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ReadingReadingUK