Biofortification to avoid malnutrition in humans in a changing climate: Enhancing micronutrient bioavailability in seed, tuber, and storage roots
Malnutrition results in enormous socio-economic costs to the individual, their community, and the nation’s economy. The evidence suggests an overall negative impact of climate change on the agricultural productivity and nutritional quality of food crops. Producing more food with better nutritional quality, which is feasible, should be prioritized in crop improvement programs. Biofortification refers to developing micronutrient -dense cultivars through crossbreeding or genetic engineering. This review provides updates on nutrient acquisition, transport, and storage in plant organs; the cross-talk between macro- and micronutrients transport and signaling; nutrient profiling and spatial and temporal distribution; the putative and functionally characterized genes/single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with Fe, Zn, and β-carotene; and global efforts to breed nutrient-dense crops and map adoption of such crops globally. This article also includes an overview on the bioavailability, bioaccessibility, and bioactivity of nutrients as well as the molecular basis of nutrient transport and absorption in human. Over 400 minerals (Fe, Zn) and provitamin A-rich cultivars have been released in the Global South. Approximately 4.6 million households currently cultivate Zn-rich rice and wheat, while ~3 million households in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America benefit from Fe-rich beans, and 2.6 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil eat provitamin A-rich cassava. Furthermore, nutrient profiles can be improved through genetic engineering in an agronomically acceptable genetic background. The development of “Golden Rice” and provitamin A-rich dessert bananas and subsequent transfer of this trait into locally adapted cultivars are evident, with no significant change in nutritional profile, except for the trait incorporated. A greater understanding of nutrient transport and absorption may lead to the development of diet therapy for the betterment of human health.