- The Rediscovery of the Mineral Magnesium

International experts highlight the significance of magnesium as a nutrient promoting the health of plants, animals and humans

Press release of 2012-05-10

 

The first international symposium on the role of magnesium as a mineral crop nutrient, for improving the quality of food products and for human health was held from 8-9 May 2012, and drew more than 120 par­ti­ci­pants from 30 countries. The conference was hosted by the Institute of Applied Plant Nutrition – IAPN at the Georg-August-University Göttingen, which had been ceremoniously opened only one week earlier. The symposium was organized in cooperation with the Sabanci University, Istanbul, and the Center for Magnesium Education und Research, Hawaii.

 

The symposium was intended to kick off an intense interdisciplinary discourse by internationally leading magnesium researchers. “Normally, plant researchers, animal food producers and physicians meet at their respective expert or trade conferences,” said Prof. Dr. Klaus Dittert, the scientific director of the IAPN and co-organizer of the symposium. “This symposium has successfully facilitated the very first interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge on the functions and characteristics of magnesium.”

 

International speakers as well as participants would now like to continue this discourse, and jointly promote a higher degree of recognition for the relevance of magnesium in all disciplines.

 

Magnesium has numerous elementary functions in the organisms of plants, humans and animals. Among other functions, magnesium is essential to photosynthesis, the energy metabolism and the transport of nutrients in plants, thereby contributing to improved crop quality and yield. In grazing animals, magnesium deficiency is particularly critical, as it may lead to grass tetany, a potentially fatal metabolic disorder. In human medicine it has clearly been established that a sufficient supply of magnesium reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In all disciplines however, understanding of the exact mechanisms behind many of the observed findings still is lacking.

 

Magnesium in Plant Nutrition

In spite of its great significance, many of the speakers from the field of plant nutrition have termed magnesium the “forgotten mineral”. Unlike other nutritional elements such as nitrogen, potassium or phosphorus, magnesium has received very little attention by researchers in the past.

 

During the symposium several research initiatives have been announced by scientists addressing many of the open questions on magnesium. Of particular interest is the question of how to promote good crop yields under increasingly adverse conditions, such as heat and water scarcity. In view of climate change, of increasing water scarcity and a growing demand for food by an increasing world population with changing dietary habits, this research topic is rapidly gaining importance. Within this context, IAPN will conduct research on how to strengthen crops for such difficult conditions. For this, as well as for enhancing the nutritional quality of agricultural products, magnesium will play a key role.