Bioavailability of zinc and iron in durum wheat: A trade-off between grain weight and nutrition?

Binh T.T. Tran, Timothy R. Cavagnaro, Jason A. Able, Stephanie J. Watts-Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Micronutrients such as zinc and iron are critical for human health. For the world's population that relies on cereal products to obtain micronutrients, the bioavailability (absorption of nutrients in the gut) can be hindered by an anti-nutritional compound, phytate. Phytate accumulation in grain is affected by soil properties including phosphorus availability and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. Here, we investigated the effects of AM fungi and soil phosphorus fertilization on micronutrient bioavailability in durum wheat and found that fertilization greatly decreased the bioavailability of micronutrients, but AM fungi can take up more micronutrients, which can lead to improved bioavailability when the soil is not fertilized. Summary: The bioavailability of micronutrients (zinc [Zn] and iron [Fe]) in cereal crops such as durum wheat is critically important for human nutrition. Bioavailability is a product of complex interactions between plant phosphorus (P) uptake and storage in grain (as phytate), and plant micronutrient uptake. The bioavailability of Zn and Fe in cereal grain is affected by soil nutrient concentrations and associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, but has been scarcely studied. A geographically diverse collection of 101 durum wheat genotypes was surveyed for grain bioavailability of Zn and Fe. Ten genotypes were then selected and grown with and without AM fungal inoculation and soil P fertilization to understand the effects of manipulating soil P availability and uptake on micronutrient bioavailability. The strongest negative effect on grain micronutrient bioavailability was soil P fertilization, however, it also led to increased grain weight. Crop variety selection had the greatest variation in the P-fertilized soil, but AM fungal inoculation had a positive effect on bioavailability in one variety in the non-fertilized soil. In order to grow more nutritious durum wheat crops, variety selection and AM fungal inoculation are important considerations. In general, there is a trade-off between grain weight (yield) and micronutrient bioavailability in grain that could be addressed through breeding P-deficiency tolerant varieties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-639
Number of pages13
JournalPlants People Planet
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • durum wheat
  • iron
  • micronutrient bioavailability
  • phytate
  • zinc


Dive into the research topics of 'Bioavailability of zinc and iron in durum wheat: A trade-off between grain weight and nutrition?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this