History of zinc in agriculture

Adv Nutr. 2012 Nov 1;3(6):783-9. doi: 10.3945/an.112.002881.


Zinc was established as essential for green plants in 1926 and for mammals in 1934. However, >20 y would pass before the first descriptions of zinc deficiencies in farm animals appeared. In 1955, it was reported that zinc supplementation would cure parakeratosis in swine. In 1958, it was reported that zinc deficiency induced poor growth, leg abnormalities, poor feathering, and parakeratosis in chicks. In the 1960s, zinc supplementation was found to alleviate parakeratosis in grazing cattle and sheep. Within 35 y, it was established that nearly one half of the soils in the world may be zinc deficient, causing decreased plant zinc content and production that can be prevented by zinc fertilization. In many of these areas, zinc deficiency is prevented in grazing livestock by zinc fertilization of pastures or by providing salt licks. For livestock under more defined conditions, such as poultry, swine, and dairy and finishing cattle, feeds are easily supplemented with zinc salts to prevent deficiency. Today, the causes and consequences of zinc deficiency and methods and effects of overcoming the deficiency are well established for agriculture. The history of zinc in agriculture is an outstanding demonstration of the translation of research into practical application.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture* / history
  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Deficiency Diseases / complications
  • Deficiency Diseases / history
  • Deficiency Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Deficiency Diseases / veterinary
  • Growth Disorders / etiology
  • Growth Disorders / history
  • Growth Disorders / veterinary
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Parakeratosis / etiology
  • Parakeratosis / history
  • Parakeratosis / veterinary
  • Trace Elements / deficiency*
  • Trace Elements / history
  • Trace Elements / therapeutic use
  • Zinc / deficiency*
  • Zinc / history
  • Zinc / therapeutic use


  • Trace Elements
  • Zinc