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Applied and Environmental Soil Science
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 104826, 13 pages
Review Article

Managing the Nutrition of Plants and People

1Ecological Sciences Group, The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, UK
2Division of Plant and Crop Sciences, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK
3Centre for Food Security, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, UK
4East Malling Research, New Road, East Malling, Kent ME19 6BJ, UK

Received 1 November 2011; Accepted 7 December 2011

Academic Editor: Rosario García Moreno

Copyright © 2012 Philip J. White et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


One definition of food security is having sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet dietary needs. This paper highlights the role of plant mineral nutrition in food production, delivering of essential mineral elements to the human diet, and preventing harmful mineral elements entering the food chain. To maximise crop production, the gap between actual and potential yield must be addressed. This gap is 15–95% of potential yield, depending on the crop and agricultural system. Current research in plant mineral nutrition aims to develop appropriate agronomy and improved genotypes, for both infertile and productive soils, that allow inorganic and organic fertilisers to be utilised more efficiently. Mineral malnutrition affects two-thirds of the world's population. It can be addressed by the application of fertilisers, soil amelioration, and the development of genotypes that accumulate greater concentrations of mineral elements lacking in human diets in their edible tissues. Excessive concentrations of harmful mineral elements also compromise crop production and human health. To reduce the entry of these elements into the food chain, strict quality requirements for fertilisers might be enforced, agronomic strategies employed to reduce their phytoavailability, and crop genotypes developed that do not accumulate high concentrations of these elements in edible tissues.