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Title: Iron nutrition in agriculture: From synthetic chelates to biochelates
Authors: Zuluaga, Monica Yorlady Alzate
CARDARELLI, Mariateresa 
Rouphael, Youssef
Cesco, Stefano
Pii, Youry
Colla, Giuseppe 
Issue Date: 2023
Iron (Fe) is an essential micronutrient for plant growth and productivity and, among other micronutrients, is the one required in higher amounts. In most soils, Fe occurs at relatively high concentrations; nevertheless, in calcareous soils, Fe bioavailability can be very limited, thus leading plants to develop Fe deficiency symptoms. At present, Fe fertilization still represents the most frequent approach adopted in agriculture to prevent or remediate Fe chlorosis. For soil applications, Fe fertilizers are based on Fe chelated with aminocarboxylate synthetic ligands (e.g. HEDTA, EDTA, DTPA, EDDHA), which are effective in maintaining Fe in the soil solution, even in alkaline soils, and thus in increasing its bioavailability for plant uptake. Nevertheless, Fe-aminocarboxylate complexes presents some limitations, related for instance to pH-dependent effectiveness, stability, persistence in the environment and ligand exchange reactions. In this context, vegetal-derived protein hydrolysates might represent good sources of biochelating ligands for developing innovative Fe fertilizers for sustainable agriculture. Protein hydrolysates are composed by small peptides, which, on one hand, can chelate Fe via amino acid side chains, carboxylate groups of C-termini, amine groups of N-termini and N atoms of amide groups of the peptide backbone, whilst, on the other hand, small peptides can also play a signaling role, triggering the acquisition of nutrient and morphogenetic processes in plants. The present paper reviews the current state of knowledge on traditional Fe fertilizers and, on the other side, explores the possible advantages in the application of biochelates as innovative Fe fertilizers. To further corroborate the hypothesis, three experimental trials have been carried out on three horticultural crops (cucumber, tomato, and strawberry) using a Fe-biochelate as Fe source and comparing it with the widely used traditional synthetic chelate Fe-EDDHA. The results in the three crops clearly show that Fe-biochelate is, at least, as efficient as Fe-EDDHA as source of micronutrient, even under circumneutral (pH 6.0) and alkaline conditions (pH 8.0), thus proving that Fe-biochelates can be promising alternatives to synthetic Fe chelates for the Fe nutrition management of crops. Considering the potential drawbacks of synthetic chelates (e.g., leachability, persistence, remobilization of toxic metals in soil), these findings might contribute enhancing the agriculture sustainability. In addition, Fe-biochelate could also find an application in soilless cultivation systems as an alternative to synthetic Fe chelates for Fe enrichment of edible plant tissues (biofortification), increasing their nutritional value.
ISSN: 0304-4238
DOI: 10.1016/j.scienta.2023.111833
Appears in Collections:A1. Articolo in rivista

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