MINERALS AND TRACE ELEMENTS IN THE SOIL-PLANT-ANIMAL CONTINUUM IN ETHIOPIA: A REVIEW|
Despite Ethiopia’s vast agricultural potential and prospects in agriculture-led industrial development, the country faces a set of issues related to minerals and trace elements in its food chain (soil-plant-animal-human). All organisms require a minimum amount of nutrients to maintain good health and productivity. Besides building block elements for macronutrients (water, carbohydrates, fats and proteins) and vitamins, some mineral elements (P, K, Na, Cl, Ca, Mg and S) and trace elements (F, Si, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Mo, and I) are essential for the maintenance of a healthy system. Micronutrient deficiency or excess in any of these elements in the food chain may lead to undesirable conditions that should be prevented or reversed. The aim of this review is to evaluate the status of minerals and trace elements in the country’s soil-plant-animal-human continuum based on published and unpublished data. This article provides an overview of the status, causes and effects of common micronutrient deficiencies and options for intervention. Ethiopia faces a wide set of soil fertility challenges including organic matter depletion, macronutrient and micronutrient depletion, top soil erosion, acidity and salinity. The soil system is deficient in total nitrogen, available phosphorous, sulphur, zinc and copper. The absolute amounts of Ca, Mg and K are adequate in the soils; however, the relative proportions indicate K to be high and thus may affect Mg and Ca availability to plants. Even in the presence of adequate amounts of other minerals such as K, Ca, Mg, Fe, B and Mo in the soils, plant uptake is partly dependent on soil type and conditions where uptake can be limited in acidic and saline soils. Livestock productions, which depend on less dense nutrient crop residues, are less likely to supply essential dietary minerals. Besides, vitamin A, calcium, iodine, iron, zinc and selenium deficiencies have been found to be major public health problems. The limitation of access to essential nutrients in the environment and lack of interventions in the soil-plant-animal system can hinder the country from reaching its potential to become a developed and sustainable community. The prevention and control of micronutrient deficiency disorders require a multi-faceted set of policy interventions and research and development activities for locally tailored solutions in areas such as nutrition education, improved methods of food preparation and food diversification, supplementation, mineral fortification, agronomic biofortification (including soil conditioners and specialty fertilizers) and genetic biofortification.
Minerals; Trace Elements; Calcium; Iodine; Iron; Zinc; Micronutrient Deficiency; Ethiopia