Copper deficiency in UK cereal crops: occurrence, significance and treatment


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 July 1992 - 31 August 1993
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
AHDB sector cost:
£15,800 From HGCA (Project no. 0024/1/92)
Project leader:
A H SINCLAIR1 and P J A WITHERS2 1Mill of Craibstone, Bucksburn, Aberdeen AB2 9TS 2ADAS-Bridgets, Martyr Worthy, Winchester, Hampshire SO21 1AP



About this project


Although the fungicidal property of copper (Cu) was known as early as 1761 it was not until 1931 that Cu was positively identified as an essential element for the healthy growth of plants. Deficiency of Cu was found in subsequent years to be the cause of crop failure or reduced yield on a restricted range of soils in most countries of the world. The first confirmation of Cu deficiency in the UK was made in 1947 in wheat grown on a deep fen peat in Norfolk (Pizer et al., 1966). Since then, Cu deficient soils have been identified in many areas. The most commonly and severely affected crops have been cereals.

Although Cu deficiency is known to reduce cereal grain yield and quality on certain soils in the UK, no recent attempt has been made to assess the significance of this nutrient to the UK cereals industry. Corrective applications of Cu are more widely used than in the past but yield loss often goes unnoticed because of confusion over or lack of distinct crop symptoms. There is also increased interest in the effect of grain Cu content on improving oxidation in the breadmaking process because of the ban on the use of the oxidant potassium bromate.

The purpose of this review is to assess the current importance of Cu to cereal production in the UK. The role of Cu in cereal nutrition and the effects of deficiency on yield and quality are reviewed. Unpublished data from field experiments carried out within the last 10 years are presented and future research priorities identified.