Biofortification of wheat with iron through soil and foliar application of nitrogen and iron fertilizers
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Increasing iron (Fe) concentration in food crops is an important global challenge due to high incidence of Fe deficiency in human populations. Evidence is available showing that nitrogen (N) fertilization increases Fe concentration in wheat grain. This positive impact of N on grain Fe was, however, not studied under varied soil and foliar applications of Fe. Greenhouse experiments were conducted to investigate a role of soil- and foliar-applied Fe fertilizers in improving shoot and grain Fe concentration in durum wheat (Triticum durum) grown under increasing N supply as Ca-nitrate. Additionally, an effect of foliar Fe fertilizers on grain Fe was tested with and without urea in the spray solution. Application of various soil or foliar Fe fertilizers had either a little positive effect or remained ineffective on shoot or grain Fe. By contrast, at a given Fe treatment, raising N supply substantially enhanced shoot and grain concentrations of Fe and Zn. Improving N status of plants from low to sufficient resulted in a 3-fold increase in shoot Fe content (e.g., total Fe accumulated), whereas this increase was only 42% for total shoot dry weight. Inclusion of urea in foliar Fe fertilizers had a positive impact on grain Fe concentration. Nitrogen fertilization represents an important agronomic practice in increasing grain Fe. Therefore, the plant N status deserves special attention in biofortification of food crops with Fe.
KeywordsBiofortification Iron Nitrogen Wheat Zinc
The authors are grateful to Professor Zed Rengel for constructive comments on the manuscript and correction of the English text. This study was financially supported by the HarvestPlus Program (www.harvestplus.org) and the sponsors of the HarvestPlus Global Zinc Fertilizer Project (e.g., Mosaic Company, K+S Kali, International Zinc Association, Omex Agrifluids, International Fertilizer Industry Association and International Plant Nutrition Institute).
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