Soil factors associated with zinc deficiency in crops and humans

Environ Geochem Health. 2009 Oct;31(5):537-48. 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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crops, Agricultural / chemistry*
  • Edible Grain / chemistry
  • Fertilizers / analysis
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Oryza / chemistry
  • Soil / analysis*
  • Triticum / chemistry
  • Zea mays / chemistry
  • Zinc / chemistry
  • Zinc / deficiency*


  • Fertilizers
  • Soil
  • Zinc