Many humans lack sufficient zinc (Zn) in their diet for their wellbeing and increasing Zn concentrations in edible produce (biofortification) can mitigate this. Recent efforts have focused on biofortifying staple crops. However, greater Zn concentrations can be achieved in leafy vegetables than in fruits, seeds, or tubers. Brassicas, such as cabbage and broccoli, are widely consumed and might provide an additional means to increase dietary Zn intake. Zinc concentrations in brassicas are limited primarily by Zn phytotoxicity. To assess the limits of Zn biofortification of brassicas, the Zn concentration in a peat:sand (v/v 75:25) medium was manipulated to examine the relationship between shoot Zn concentration and shoot dry weight (DW) and thereby determine the critical shoot Zn concentrations, defined as the shoot Zn concentration at which yield is reduced below 90%. The critical shoot Zn concentration was regarded as the commercial limit to Zn biofortification. Experiments were undertaken over six successive years. A linear relationship between Zn fertiliser application and shoot Zn concentration was observed at low application rates. Critical shoot Zn concentrations ranged from 0.074 to 1.201 mg Zn g−1 DW among cabbage genotypes studied in 2014, and between 0.117 and 1.666 mg Zn g−1 DW among broccoli genotypes studied in 2015–2017. It is concluded that if 5% of the dietary Zn intake of a population is currently delivered through brassicas, then the biofortification of brassicas from 0.057 to > 0.100 mg Zn g−1 DW through the application of Zn fertilisers could increase dietary Zn intake substantially.
- Brassica oleracea L