(Natural News) Fortifying rice crops with silicon greatly enhances their nutritional profile, suggests a recent study published in the Chilean Journal of Agricultural Research. The paper, presented by the Shandong Academy of Agricultural Science in China, revealed that the use of silicon fertilizers can improve the concentration of essential minerals in rice, as well as increase its protein content.
In the study, the researchers used a split-plot design to test the potential of silicon fertilizer. The main plot was amended with silicon fertilizer, while the remaining subplots were designated as the control. The plots were separated appropriately to prevent the fertilizer from leaching into the control plots. The researchers then uniformly sowed the field with two local cultivars of japonica rice. The rice grains were then harvested at maturity; after which, these were either milled (to produce milled rice) or left untreated (as brown rice). Both samples were then evaluated using chemical assays.
Researchers found that the application of silicon fertilizers brought marked improvements in the nutrient profile of rice grains. In particular, the harvested grains had enhanced levels of the following nutrients:
- Zinc — The trace element, which is essential for a healthy immune system, is one of the most deficient nutrients in a person’s diet. Studies have shown that zinc deficiency, especially in children, can result in impaired growth and an increased risk of infection.
- Calcium — It may be well-known for its benefits on bone and dental health, but calcium is also associated with improved blood pressure and better cardiac health — muscles in the heart need calcium to contract and relax properly. Without it, it can result in elevated blood pressure, as well as other heart conditions.
- Magnesium — Not a lot of people are familiar with the benefits of magnesium. They should be — almost every cell in the body needs the mineral to function properly. In fact, it can even help repair the body on a genetic level, as well as boost protein production.
- Cysteine — The amino acid, also known as NAC, is responsible for the production of glutathione, one of the most potent antioxidants in the body. Studies have also found it to be helpful in boosting immune function and respiratory health.
- Phenylalanine — This essential amino acid is known to be useful for those suffering from depression and pain, with it being essential for the production of dopamine (the primary hormone for pleasure) and epinephrine (a hormone needed for the “fight or flight” response.)
The researchers noted, however, that the amino acid content of each rice grain is dependent on its cultivar. In addition, the soil amendment was more beneficial for brown rice than milled rice, with the former having 15 percent more nutrient amount than the latter. (Related: Silicon can be an ideal natural amendment for farms that have high salinization.)
“[Silicon] fertilizer could improve rice nutritional quality by increasing concentrations of mineral elements, protein and some amino acids in brown and milled rice,” the researchers wrote in their report. “[these results] will provide [a] beneficial reference for guiding [applications] of [silicon] fertilizer in high-quality rice production.”