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Zinc Deficiency in Soils, Crops and Food in Mali and Options for Remediation

Barry, Aly; Jacks, Birgitta*; Jacks, Gunnar*

doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000362217.36233.7a
Abstracts: ISEE 21st Annual Conference, Dublin, Ireland, August 25–29, 2009: Oral Presentations

*Åbo Akademi, Turku, Finland; and †Fondation Novartis, Ségou, Mali.

Abstracts published in Epidemiology have been reviewed by the organizations of Epidemiology. Affliate Societies at whose meetings the abstracts have been accepted for presentation. These abstracts have not undergone review by the Editorial Board of Epidemiology.


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Mali has a high child mortality of 220/1000. Children in the Niger inland delta die at birth and at weaning age. Zinc deficiency weakening the immuno-system could be responsible for 20% of the child mortality. The objective of this work has been to study zinc availability along the food chain from soils to humans.200 soil samples were sampled at five locations and assessed for Zn plant availability. Crops were analysed for total zinc and iron. 20 meals have been sampled and analysed for energy, iron, and zinc. Effects of food preparation have been studied by phytate analysis.

Soil zinc deficiency is present along a stretch of 700 km in the Niger inland delta. Contents of zinc in crops are lower than reference values. A fertilization test adding 10 kg Zn per ha gave little effect on the rice crop. Another test with intermittent irrigation indicated higher zinc uptake. An assessment of the zinc and iron intake made in the centre of the delta showed that the zinc intake was half the recommended while iron intake was double the recommended. Nevertheless anemia is common among women and children, due to the cereal-dominated diet with less than 10% of the energy from animal food. The phytate/zinc and phytate/iron ratios are high making the trace elements less available.

Fertilisers with trace elements are not available but foliar application may be more efficient. Zinc supplementation of food items is not applicable as food is entirely produced and consumed locally. A weaning powder with cereals treated by fermentation which can lower the phytate/zinc ratio is under development. The production could be done by women's cooperatives.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.