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Sci Total Environ. 2014 Jan 15;468-469:77-82. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.08.016. Epub 2013 Sep 6.

Selenium content of Belgian cultivated soils and its uptake by field crops and vegetables.

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Veterinary and Agrochemical Research Centre (CODA-CERVA), Chemical Safety of the Food Chain, Leuvensesteenweg 17, B-3080 Tervuren, Belgium.


A series of 695 food crops were collected on 539 soils throughout Belgium. All samples were collected on commercial production fields, omitting private gardens. All crops were analyzed for their selenium (Se) concentration. The soils represent different soil types occurring in Belgium, with soil textures ranging from sand to silt loam, and including a few clay soils. They were analyzed for Se concentration, organic carbon content, cation exchange capacity and extractable sulphur (S) concentration. The Se concentrations in the soils were low (range 0.14-0.70 mg kg(-1) dw), but increasing soil Se concentrations were observed with increasing clay content. Stepwise multiple regressions were applied to determine relations between Se concentrations in crops and soil characteristics. Among field crops, wheat is the most important accumulator of selenium but the concentration remains rather low on the Belgian low Se-soils. Based on dry weight, leafy vegetables contain more Se than wheat. The soil is the most important source of Se and the element is transported with the water stream to the leaves, where it is accumulated. Vegetables rich in S, e.g. some Brassica and Allium species, have a higher capacity to accumulate Se as it can replace S in the proteins, although this accumulation is still limited at low soil Se concentrations. In loamy soils, weak correlations were found between the soil Se concentration and its concentration in wheat and potato. The uptake of Se increased with increasing pH. The Se concentrations in Belgian soils are far too low to generate a driving force on Se uptake. General climatic conditions such as temperature, air humidity and soil moisture are also important for the transfer of Se within the plant, and plant linked factors such as cultivar, growth stage and edible part are important as well, although their influence remains limited at low soil Se concentrations.


Field crops; Selenium; Soil uptake; Soil–plant regressions; Vegetables

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