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Beneficial elements: novel players in plant biology for innovative crop production

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Beneficial elements are not essential for plants, but when supplied they help promote their growth and development since they can stimulate mechanisms of resistance to biotic and abiotic stress factors, promote the use of other nutrients, and compensate or remedy the toxic effects of other elements. ...

Beneficial elements are not essential for plants, but when supplied they help promote their growth and development since they can stimulate mechanisms of resistance to biotic and abiotic stress factors, promote the use of other nutrients, and compensate or remedy the toxic effects of other elements. Beneficial elements can trigger response mechanisms in plants against environmental events such as drought, heavy metal toxicity, low temperatures, soils with high salt concentrations, pest insects or pathogens. In this review the beneficial effects of aluminum (Al), cerium (Ce), cobalt (Co), iodine (I), lanthanum (La), sodium (Na), selenium (Se), silicon (Si), titanium (Ti) and vanadium (V) in some model or cultivated plants where significant changes have been noted are described, and their potential use as innovative components for agricultural production is highlighted. Aluminum can modulate the color of flowers, stimulate plant growth and root development, increase the vase life of some species and trigger antioxidant mechanisms. Cerium increases root size and the number of root hairs, boosts catalase activity and may be involved in the transformation of inorganic N to organic N. In legumes, Co plays a major role in atmospheric N fixation by Rhizobium, and in other species it can improve the use of P, K, Mn and Zn, as well as increase vase life. Iodine can improve the use of N, advance flowering, and increase fruit yield and uniformity. Lanthanum can improve uptake of K, Ca and Mg, increase root and overall plant growth, improve germination processes, participate in signaling processes mediated by Ca-calmodulin and activate antioxidant mechanisms. Selenium may improve tolerance to oxidative stress, reduce the senescence process, promote growth, and increase the uptake of heavy metals. Silicon can counteract the toxic effects of heavy metals, drought and salinity, induce resistance mechanisms against pests and diseases, allow the formation of nanostructures, improve the strength and stiffness of plant tissues, stimulate antioxidant mechanisms, reduce ethylene synthesis and increase vase life. Sodium can act as a growth regulator, improve vase life and stimulate the synthesis of amino acids such as proline. Titanium improves uptake of N, P, K, Ca and Mg, increases starch synthesis, reduces injuries caused by Xanthomonas, and generally improves plant growth. Vanadium can act as an inducer of secondary metabolism and increase plant growth. Other elements such as silver (Ag), chromium (Cr), fluorine (Fl) and tungsten (W) may also have beneficial effects on plant biology, although they have been little explored. Beneficial elements, then, have great potential for use in facing some of the most daunting challenges facing humanity, such as climate change and growing food demand. Therefore, further research on beneficial elements is crucial for global agrifood innovation.


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