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Soil type influences crop mineral composition in Malawi

Joy, Edward J.M.; Broadley, Martin R.; Young, Scott D.; Black, Colin R.; Chilimba, Allan D.C.; Ander, E. Louise; Barlow, Thomas S.; Watts, Michael J.

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Edward J.M. Joy

Scott D. Young

Colin R. Black

Allan D.C. Chilimba

Principal Research Fellow

Thomas S. Barlow

Michael J. Watts


© 2014. Food supply and composition data can be combined to estimate micronutrient intakes and deficiency risks among populations. These estimates can be improved by using local crop composition data that can capture environmental influences including soil type. This study aimed to provide spatially resolved crop composition data for Malawi, where information is currently limited. Six hundred and fifty-two plant samples, representing 97 edible food items, were sampled from >. 150 sites in Malawi between 2011 and 2013. Samples were analysed by ICP-MS for up to 58 elements, including the essential minerals calcium (Ca), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), selenium (Se) and zinc (Zn).Maize grain Ca, Cu, Fe, Mg, Se and Zn concentrations were greater from plants grown on calcareous soils than those from the more widespread low-pH soils. Leafy vegetables from calcareous soils had elevated leaf Ca, Cu, Fe and Se concentrations, but lower Zn concentrations. Several foods were found to accumulate high levels of Se, including the leaves of Moringa, a crop not previously been reported in East African food composition data sets.New estimates of national dietary mineral supplies were obtained for non-calcareous and calcareous soils. High risks of Ca (100%), Se (100%) and Zn (57%) dietary deficiencies are likely on non-calcareous soils. Deficiency risks on calcareous soils are high for Ca (97%), but lower for Se (34%) and Zn (31%). Risks of Cu, Fe and Mg deficiencies appear to be low on the basis of dietary supply levels.


Joy, E. J., Broadley, M. R., Young, S. D., Black, C. R., Chilimba, A. D., Ander, E. L., …Watts, M. J. (2015). Soil type influences crop mineral composition in Malawi. Science of the Total Environment, 505, 587-595.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 12, 2014
Online Publication Date Oct 24, 2014
Publication Date Feb 1, 2015
Deposit Date Nov 16, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 16, 2016
Journal Science of the Total Environment
Print ISSN 0048-9697
Electronic ISSN 1879-1026
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 505
Pages 587-595
Keywords Crop composition; Geochemistry; Malawi; Mineral micronutrient deficiencies
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Soil type influences crop mineral composition in Malawi; Journal Title: Science of The Total Environment; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: Copyright © 2014 Published by Elsevier B.V.


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