Plant and Soil

, Volume 404, Issue 1–2, pp 99–112 | Cite as

Selenium fertilization strategies for bio-fortification of food: an agro-ecosystem approach

  • G. H. Ros
  • A. M. D. van Rotterdam
  • D. W. Bussink
  • P. S. Bindraban
Regular Article



Although the global importance of selenium (Se) deficiency to human and animal health has been recognized for decades, strategic Se fertilization interventions addressing agro-ecosystem specific conditions have not been developed. This research aims to identify such strategies based on an inventory of production-ecological factors controlling the potential impact of Se fertilizers on crop performance and nutritional content.


The effect of agro-ecosystem properties on crop response to Se fertilization was assessed using a meta-analysis approach based on 243 experiments performed during 1960 to 2014.


The meta-analysis confirms the high impact of fertilization as an effective agronomic biofortification strategy. Site specific properties strongly affect crop responses to Se fertilization implying the need for tailor-made solutions. However, the minor influence of soil organic matter, total soil Se levels and acidity suggests that consideration of other agro-ecosystem properties like climate and bioavailable Se measurements is also required to optimize fertilizer strategies.


Fertilization characteristics including formulation, dose and timing were found to be driving variables enhancing crop Se uptake. The highest uptake efficiencies are found for foliar and selenate based fertilizers. The current low recoveries and the scarce resource availability challenges the fertilizer approach to develop strategies that maximize the uptake efficiency of Se.


Agro-ecosystem approach Biofortification Fertilization Meta-analysis Micro-nutrients Selenium 



G.H.R. was financially supported by the Nutrient Management Institute and by the Virtual Fertilizer Research Center (a grant, approved 12 November 2013). A preliminary meta-analysis (only main-factor analysis) of the same dataset has been published in VFRC report 2014/2 (Ros et al. 2014) within the framework of fortification strategies and requirements for broadly applicable decision support tools. We greatly thank Dr. H. Lambers and four anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the institutes from the involved authors: the Nutrient Management Institute in the Netherlands and a grant from the Virtual Fertilizer Research Center (approved 12 November 2013).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11104_2016_2830_MOESM1_ESM.docx (186 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 185 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. H. Ros
    • 1
  • A. M. D. van Rotterdam
    • 1
  • D. W. Bussink
    • 1
  • P. S. Bindraban
    • 2
  1. 1.Nieuwe Kanaal 7cWageningenthe Netherlands
  2. 2.Virtual Fertilizer Research CenterWashingtonUSA

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