Increasing Nutrient Density of Food Crops through Soil Fertility Management and Cultivar Selection




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Increasing Nutrient Density of Food Crops through Soil Fertility Management and Cultivar Selection


Proposal presented

By

Md J Meagy





Department of Plant, Soil, and Insect Sciences


University of Massachusetts Amherst


Table of Contents

  1. Literature Reviews

  2. Research

  1. Justification

  2. Objectives

  3. Experiments

  1. Experiment 1:

  2. Experiment 2:

  3. Experiment 3:

  4. Experiment 4:

  1. Experiment 1:

  1. Introduction

  2. Materials and Methods

  1. Materials

  2. Methods

  1. Results

  2. Discussion

  1. Experiment 2:

  1. Introduction

  2. Materials and Methods

  1. Materials

  2. Methods

  1. Results

  2. Discussion

  1. Experiment 3:

  1. Introduction

  2. Materials and Methods

  1. Materials

  2. Methods

  1. Results

  2. Discussion

  1. Experiment 3:

  1. Introduction

  2. Materials and Methods

  1. Materials

  2. Methods

  1. Results

  2. Discussion

  1. Bibliography



Increasing Nutrient Density of Food Crops through Soil Fertility Management and Cultivar Selection


Proposal presented


By


Md J Meagy





Department of Plant, Soil, and Insect Sciences


University of Massachusetts Amherst


Increasing Nutrient Density of Food Crops through Soil Fertility Management and Cultivar Selection


A Disertation Proposal

Presented


By


MD J. MEAGY


Approved as to style and content by:


____________________________________________________
Allen V. Barker, Chair


____________________________________________________
Geunhwa Jung, Member


____________________________________________________
Touria El Jaoual Eaton, Member


Department of Plant, Soil, and Insect Sciences


University of Massachusetts Amherst

Increasing Nutrient Density of Food Crops through Soil Fertility Management and Cultivar Selection


Abstract

Lettuce is the most widely used leafy vegetable around the world. This experiment will be conducted on lettuce crop, organic and conventional fertility regimes, fertility management practices, assessing the relationship between fertility regimes and cultivars selection for increasing nutrient densities, and assessing the molecular similarities and variations among the cultivars. Experiments will be conducted in greenhouse and field sites. Organic and conventional fertilizer regimes will be used as treatment for the plant. Growth parameter such as height, fresh wt and dry wt will be reported for each experiment. Elemental analysis will be resulted accumulated by plants afterwards. Nutrients densities in plants might be increases through fertility and management practices.


Increasing Nutrient Density of Food Crops through Soil Fertility Management and Cultivar Selection


Background

Malnutrition is a primary factor limiting human productivity in modern times, and deficiencies of certain elements including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and others known as mineral nutrients, in diets of humans are a substantial nutritional problem throughout the World (Darnton-Hill et al., 2005; Kataki and Babu, 2002; Schaetzel and Sankar, 2000). Davis (2009) reports 5% to 40% declines in mineral contents of vegetables and fruits in the past 50 to 70 years in the United States. Reports from the United Kingdom indicated that foods were depleted by about 20% during this time (Anonymous, 2005; Anonymous, 2006; Mayer, 1997). Research on the diets of subjects in Philadelphia warranted a downward revision in the intakes of iron, magnesium, and vitamins (Guenther et al., 1994). The result of a study concluded that many Americans are not meeting the current recommendations for calcium intake through diet alone or with supplements (Ma et al., 2007).

Davis (2009) suggests that the decline in mineral and protein content in fruits and vegetables is due partly to a dilution effect of high yields. Side-by-side comparisons of low- and high-yielding vegetables and grains showed negative correlations between yield of produce and concentrations of minerals. However, White et al. (2009) reported that with potato (Solanum spp. L.), a dilution effect of high yields on nutrient concentration was not observed universally and that soil fertility affected the mineral nutrients more than the dilution effect.

Soil fertility problems associated with nutrient depletion by crop production are worldwide (Tan et al., 2005). In the United States, potassium and phosphorus contents are being drawn down in soils at an increasing rate every year, and the depletion occurring for 40 years for potassium and for nearly 30 years for phosphorus (Stewart, 2004). Similar nutrient mining of essential elements occurs throughout the World (Ayoub, 1998; Dobermann et al., 1996; Lal and Singh, 1998; Nandwa and Bekunda, 1998). Elemental depletion of soils must be compensated for by fertilization for sustainable production of nutrient-sufficient foods (Buol, 1995).

Organically grown fruits and vegetables might differ from conventionally grown produce due to differences in the types of fertilizers used in the two practices. Low availability of nutrients in organic fertilizers could limit mineral accumulation in plants relative to fertilization with chemical fertilizers with high nutrient availability, thereby making the chemical fertilizers a superior nutrient source. On the other hand, high availability of certain nutrients or failure to provide elements in chemical fertilizers could lead to nutrient imbalances in foods (Lundegaardh and Maartensson, 2003). A study noted that compost increased nutrient concentrations in soils but not always in plants (Roe, 1998). The result of another study reported no consistent differences in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium concentrations in several vegetables in crops fertilized with composts and crop residues or with synthetic mineral fertilizers (Herencia et al., 2007). A recently published study (Benbrook et al., 2008) reported that organically grown foods derived from plants were superior to those grown conventionally with respect to phosphorus, potassium, nitrates, several antioxidants, and vitamin C. An experiment result suggested that the high yields achieved through farming systems with high nitrogen fertilizer inputs led to a dilution of nutrient density in vegetables relative to organic systems with low nitrogen inputs (Benbrook and Scientist, 2009). High nitrate concentrations in foods are considered as a factor adversely affecting human health (Maynard et al., 1976). Organically grown vegetables may have less nitrate accumulation than conventionally fertilized vegetables (Benbrook et al., 2008). The result of a study reported that farm manure had a more favorable effect on certain plant constituents (nitrate and oxalic acid) than potassium nitrate (Turan and Sevimli, 2005). However, Maynard et al. (1976) noted that the amount of nitrogen fertilization regardless of source was the principal factor leading to nitrate accumulation in vegetables. A study noted that with fertilization for optimum yield, nitrate concentrations of vegetables were not different between organically and chemically fertilized vegetables (Barker, 1975).

Regardless of soil conditions, fruits and vegetables, although high in vitamins, are typically low in mineral nutrients (Elless et al., 2000). Except for potassium, the fruit-vegetable food group contributes less than 30% of the total dietary intake of mineral nutrients (Levander, 1990). To counter this problem, several attempts have been made to increase the mineral nutrient content of fruits and vegetables. These actions have included enrichment of foods in processing, but not much attention has been directed toward improvement of foods through enhanced soil fertility and cultivar selection, although these two factors appear to be principal agents affecting the nutrient density of fruits and vegetables.

Methods of increasing the nutrient content of foods must be developed through improved practices in fertilization and in the development and selection of crop varieties that accumulate the nutrients in amounts that are adequate for intake in normal diets of humans. This research will involve studies with heritage and modern hybrids of several types of vegetable crops grown under differing regimes of fertilization. It is likely that heritage and modern hybrids will differ in susceptibility to diseases. . The high levels of horizontal or broad resistance to pathogens are often observed in heritage cultivars due to their adaptation over time to climate and soil conditions where they have grown in when they are compared to modern cultivars. The modern cultivars drop in horizontal or broad resistance to pathogens during breeding and under protection of pesticides. Soil fertility practices also are likely to affect the prevalence of diseases in the soil and plant susceptibility to diseases. Plant pathogenic diseases can be stimulated by excess levels of available nitrogen under favorable conditions.


Justification

The need for this project was raised by the food consumers and producers as well as by the scientific community. Literature on food composition demonstrates that the mineral nutrient density of vegetables has fallen in the past 50 years. This decline is associated with declines in soil fertility and with the genetics of plant cultivars that increase yield at higher rates than mineral nutrients increases. Research is needed to develop systems of food crop production that will supply adequate mineral nutrition to people directly. Use of nutrient-dense crops provide an opportunity for vegetable producers to diversify production and market, and to increase income and profitability as there appear to be a ready market for these crops.


Research Objectives

  1. To determine if the mineral nutrient densities of selected vegetable crops can be increased through cultivar selection.

  2. To determine if the nutrient densities of selected vegetable crops can be increased by elevating nutrient contents in the medium in which these plants grow.

  3. To determine if the nutrient densities of selected vegetable crops can be increased through soil fertility practices (e.g., organic vs conventional fertilizers; different fertilizer regimes), and

  4. To assess genetic similarities among selected cultivars within species, for genetic purity and diversity, using molecular markers.


Research

Four experiments will be set up for this project based on objectives. The brief discussions of the experiment are as follows:

Experiment 1. Assessment of the relationship between nutrient density in crops and cultivar selection and nutrient availability in the greenhouse.


This experiment will be designed to determine the mineral nutrient contents of lettuce through cultivar selection using different fertilizer regimes.

The experiment will be conducted in the greenhouse to evaluate regimes of fertilization and cultivars for evaluation in fields. The same fertilizers suggested for the field evaluation will be used in this experiment. The greenhouse experiments will help to evaluate fertility regimes before and after application in the field. The lettuce crop will be grown in peat-based media (Canadian Growing Mix 1-PV, Conrad Fafard Inc, Agawam, MA) (Boodley et al., 1996). The elemental nutrient composition will be determined in edible parts (fresh leaves) of lettuce. Because of their adaptability to greenhouse production, the lettuce crop to be evaluated using different lettuce cultivars. Each crop will be evaluated for their growth and nutrient contents. The experimental design of the experiment will be followed by complete random block design.


Experiment 2. Assess the effect between mineral nutrient density in crops and cultivar selection by elevating nutrient contents in the medium in which the plants grow.


This experiment will be assessed differences in the mineral densities of lettuce cultivar through increasing the nutrient contents in the medium. The differences of this experiment from the experiment one will be in elevating nutrient contents in the medium in which the plant grow. The experiment will be conducted in greenhouse and field to assess the response of lettuce using the increasing nutrient contents. The same fertilizers will be used in the field experiment. The crop will be grown in peat-based media (Canadian Growing Mix 1-PV, Conrad Fafard Inc, Agawam, MA) (Boodley et al., 1996). The fertilizer regimes will be chemical fertilizer organic fertilizer with increasing nutrient contents. The increasing nutrient contents in the fertilizer regimes will be calcium based on nutrient demand for human dietary nutrient requirement. The nutrient contents will be measured in the edible parts (fresh leaves) of the plant. This crop will be evaluated for growth and nutrient densities in produce. The experimental design of the experiment will be followed by complete random block design.


Experiment 3. Assess the effect of organic and conventional soil fertility practices on mineral accumulation in vegetables in field experimentation.


Fertilization will be provided in the experiment using organic and conventional fertilizer regime. Two regimes of organic and one conventional fertilizer will be selected to provide nutrients. Organic fertilizer will come from the individual sources includes soybean meal for nitrogen, colloidal rock phosphate for the phosphorus, and mined potassium sulfate for the potassium. The compost will be obtained from the University Office of Waste Management, which produces compost from dining commons food waste and yard waste from the Amherst campus. Produce will be harvested and evaluated for yield and nutrient densities at edible plant parts (e.g. fresh leaves). In addition, whenever pathogen resulted damages or symptoms are observed under natural conditions (no artificial inoculations), accurate identification of the disease will be carried out in conjunction with Plant Disease Diagnostician and a vegetable pathologist (Dr. Robert Wicks, Plant, Soil, and Insect Sciences) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The disease severity per cultivar will be rated. The experimental design of the experiment will be followed by complete random block design.


Experiment 4. Assessment of the genetic purity and genetic diversity among cultivars of lettuce using molecular markers in greenhouse experiment.


This experiment is planned to determine the genetic purity and genetic diversity among cultivars of lettuce crops using molecular markers. The experiment will be conducted in the greenhouse using the same cultivars as used in the previous experiments. Standard fertilizer will be used to grow the cultivars. Fresh tissue will be sampled in the middle of the growth period for genomic analysis. Genomic DNA will be extracted from plant tissues according to the procedures used in (Curley and Jung, 2004; Simko, 2008) and (Sim et al., 2009). EST- and genomic-SSR markers of respective vegetables, these will be selected from the most recent papers (Cavagnaro et al., 2009; Kong et al., 2006; Liu et al., 2007b; Liu et al., 2007c; Richards et al., 2004; Simko, 2008; Yi et al., 2006) will be screened against selected cultivars within the vegetable species and used for genetic similarities. PCRs will be conducted in conditions as described in the respective papers. DNA similarities among cultivars within each of species will be estimated. The experimental design of the experiment will be followed by complete random block design.

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