Seed Nutrient Density Packs Powerful Punch

Posted in: Farming     

If no one is willing to pay me for nutrient dense seed, why should I care?


The amount of nutrients contained within a seed is a reflection of the nutrient environment it is grown in. This impacts the seed’s performance in several ways, including:

1.Seed for the next generation 

2.Building blocks for products made from seed

First, let’s look at what this means for the quality of seed for the next generation. When I think like a germinating seed, I worry about certain key elements especially in cold early season soil environments. Phosphorus (P), zinc (Zn), boron (B), manganese (Mn) and magnesium (Mg) are my key concerns. Phosphorus (P) is the battery nutrient at the heart of the ADP/ATP cycle, which is the energy currency of all cells. Zinc (Zn) is involved in all enzymatic mediated reactions. Enzymes speed biological transformations by at 1,000–1,000,000 fold, which in part explains cold soil responses. Boron (B) helps to drive early roots, aids in cell differentiation, is key for cell integrity and is critical for pollination. Mn aids in fighting many soil/seed-borne diseases and is essential for splitting H2O in photosynthesis. Mg is the central atom of the chlorophyll molecule and drives the most important living reaction on the planet, photosynthesis. 

Seeds that are higher in these nutrients have increased germ and seedling vigor as well as increased disease resistance. We also know that most yield loss is attributed to abiotic stress, which is especially severe early in a crop’s life. 

Now, let’s look at how this information can influence decisions on your farm:

1.If you have a choice between similar seed lots (germ, vigor, 1000 KWT, etc.), choose the lot that is most nutrient dense.

2.Choose a certified seed grower who pays particular attention to fertility and these nutrients in particular. Ask them to see the soil test and fertility package that went on the seed.

3.If you’re saving seed for use on your farm, select fields with the highest background fertility and implement a fertility package that ensures key nutrients are available when the plant requires them. Start with P and Zn. Take tissue tests to monitor progress. 

4.Consider priming, impregnating and/or seed-placed nutrients as additional supports. Run strips across fields and see what works on your farm.

Seed for building blocks

In North America, it is a common practice to add iron (Fe) to flour/bread and iodine to salt while in Finland selenium (Se) has been added to commonly used fertilizers to address chronic human Se deficiency through food grown on Se fertilized ground. Currently over 2 billion people are Fe deficient and a similar number deficient in Zn. In North America, roughly 6 in 10 people do not ingest sufficient Mg. Moreover as yields per acre increase, the nutrient density of the crops we grow will decline unless action is taken. 

In a perfect world, with extensive research, we should strive to get to a place where animal and human food will not need supplementation because the crops that are consumed will be nutrient dense. Plant breeding is part of the answer in conjunction with agronomic fine tuning, fertility management and deeper understanding of nutrient bioavailability. 

Companies have already begun niche-market contracting for specific nutrient dense crops. This grower opportunity will continue to expand over the next 3 decades and much of it will be consumer education driven. Until then, growers will have to be content with producing a seed with the power to produce healthy, vigorous, abiotic stress resistant seedlings that consistently produce higher, more nutrient-dense yields. 

So in the meantime, each of us should pick a couple of fields to focus our nutrient dense attention on and then Learn, UnLearn and ReLearn constantly!


Elston Solberg is the director of Agri-Trend’s Agri-Knowledge Division and can be reached at
Jill DeMulder is executive producer of the Agri-Knowledge Division, and she can be reached at

About the Author
Elston Solberg

Elston brings over 25 years of research expertise to Agri-Trend, through his work as Head Cereal Specialist and Research Agronomist with Alberta Agriculture. In addition to his experience as a researcher at the University of Alberta, Elston also has experience in the waste management industry, including municipal and intensive livestock operations. He has authored, co-authored, and published many research papers in a wide variety of technical and industry journals, and has contributed to numerous articles throughout the ag-media sector. Elston and his associates have raised the awareness of copper fertilization, and he is one of the world’s foremost authorities on sulphur nutrition. Mr. Solberg was instrumental in the establishment of the Crop Diagnostic Training Centre near Edmonton. He has been involved in agricultural projects throughout North America, Europe, China and Australia, and is an accomplished speaker being well received by farm and industry audiences alike. As Head of The Agri-Knowledge Division, Elston provides leadership to our retailers (Agri-Trend Associates), consultants (Agri-Coaches) and farm clients by: Overseeing the agronomic integrity of all Strategic Crop Plan™ recommendations; Providing internal and external training through The Agri-Training Solution™; Managing The Agri-Trend Research Initiative™, and Developing Agri-Knowledge Tools for Strategic Crop Plan farm clients & Agri-Coaches.

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