Selenium in human and animal nutrition and need for selenium fertilization of crops

Abstract views: 378 / PDF downloads: 96




Biofortification, Fertilization, Mastitis, Perinatal death, Swelling in knees


Selenium is an essential micronutrient for humans and animals, required to increase immunity, protect cells from free radical damage and inflammation, and support a healthy metabolism. The typical manifestations of selenium deficiency in humans are loss of appetite, fatigue after even mild exercise, cardiac arrhythmia and palpitations, cardiac insufficiency, cardiomegaly, and congestive heart failure, swelling in the joints of arms and legs in children aged 5–13 years resulting in structural shortening of the fingers and long bones resulting in growth retardation and stunting. Clinical signs of selenium deficiency in cattle include mastitis, perinatal death and abortions, suboptimal fertility in adult cattle and suboptimal milk production, acute nutritional muscular dystrophy in young calves, sudden collapse or death of calves within 2–3 days of birth, stiff-legged gait, weakness and inability to stand or walk in young calves.
Being a micronutrient for humans and animals, the margin between deficiency and toxicity of selenium are small and selenium supplementation has to be carefully planned. Agronomic biofortification by fertilizing crops on selenium deficient soils is the safest way and has been successfully tried in China and Finland. It is now practised in Australia and several other countries. However, the research work on selenium in soils, plants, animals and humans is of recent origin in India and needs utmost attention and priority considering its importance in the food chain.


Download data is not yet available.


Anderson M S, Lakin H W, Beeson K C, Smith F F and Thacker E. 1961. Selenium in Agriculture. USDA. Agricultural Research Service, Agriculture Handbook No 200: 1–65.

Arora S P, Parvinder K, Khirwar S S, Chopra R C and Ludri R S. 1975. Se levels in fodders and its relationship with Degnala Disease. Indian Journal of Dairy Science 28: 249–53.

Arora S P. 1985. Livestock problems related to geochemistry in India include selenium toxicity and goitre. Proceedings 1st International Symposium on Geochemistry and Health, London, pp 164–80.

Arthur J R, Price J and Mills C F. 1979. Observations on the selenium status of cattle in the northeast of Scotland. The Veterinary Record 104(15): 340–41.

Briggs P H and Crock J G. 1986. Automated determination of total selenium in rocks, soils, and plants. Geological Survey, US Department of Interior, Report 86.

Brown K M and Arthur J R. 2001. Selenium, selenoproteins and human health: a review. Public Health Nutrition 4(2b): 593–99.

Caple L W, Andrewartha K A, Edwards S J A and Halpin C G. 1980. An examination of the selenium nutrition of sheep in Victoria. Australian Veterinary Journal 56: 160–67.

Castets P, Lescure A, Guicheney P and Allamand V. 2012. Selenoprotein N in skeletal muscle: from diseases to function. Journal of Molecular Medicine (Berl) 90(10): 1095–1107.

Collins R, Johansson AL, Karlberg T, Markova N, van den Berg S, Olesen K, Hammarström M, Flores A, Schuler H, Schiavone L H, Brzezinski P, Arner E S L and Högbom, M. Collins R, Johansson AL, Karlberg T, Markova N, van den Berg S, Olesen K, Hammarström M, Flores A, Schuler H, Schiavone L H, Brzezinski P, Arner E S L and Hogbom,o M. 2012. Biochemical discrimination between selenium and sulfur 1: A single residue provides selenium specificity to human selenocysteine lyase. PLoS One 7(1): e30581.

Cullerton N, Parle P, Murphy W and Murphy J. 1997. Selenium supplementation for dairy cows. Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research 36(1): 23–29.

Dargatz D A and Ross P F. 1996. Blood selenium concentrations in cows and heifers on 253 cow-calf operations in 18 states. Journal of Animal Science 74: 2891–95.

Davies E B and Watkinson J H. 1966 Uptake of native and applied selenium by pasture species. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 9: 317–24.

Dharmasena A. 2014. Selenium supplementation in thyroid associated ophthalmopathy: an update. International Journal of Ophthalmology 7(2): 365–75.

Dhillon K and Dhillon S K. 1991. Selenium toxicity in soils, plants and animals in some parts of Punjab, India. International Journal of Environmental Studies 37(1–2): 15–24.

Dhillon K S, Bawa S S and Dhillon S K. 1992. Selenium toxicity in some plants and soils of Punjab. Journal of the Indian Society of Soil Science 40: 132–36.

Dhillon K S, Neeraj Rani and Dhillon S K. 2005. Evaluation of different extractants for the estimation of bioavailable selenium in seleniferous soils of Northwest India. Australian Journal of Soil Research 43: 639–45.

Ducsay L, Lozek L, Marcek M, Varenyiova M, Hozlar P and Losak T. 2016. Possibility of selenium biofortification of winter wheat grain. Plant, Soil and Environment 62(8): 379–83.

Eulogio G L J, Hugo C V, Antonio C N, Alejandro C I and Juan M Q. 2012. Effects of the selenium and vitamin E in the production, physicochemical composition and somatic cell count in milk of Ayrshire cows. Journal of Animal & Veterinary Advances 11: 687–91.

Eurola M, Ekholm P, Ylinen M, Koivistoinen P and Varo P. 1990. Effects of selenium fertilization on the selenium content of cereal grains, flour, and bread produced in Finland. Cereal Chemistry 67(4): 334–37.

Filby S J, Peters A, Bourska C, Pirelli G and Oldfield J. 2007. Selenium fertilization of pastures for improved forage selenium content. The Professional Animal Scientist 23: 144–47.

Fleming G A. 1980. Essential micronutrients. II. Iodine and selenium. Applied Soil Trace Elements, pp 199–234. Davis B E (Ed), New York, John Wiley & Sons.

Flohe L, Gunzler W A and Shock H H. 1973. Glutathione peroxidase-A selenoenzyme. FEBS Letters 32: 132–34.

Ge K and Yang G. 1993. The epidemiology of selenium deficiency in the etiological study of endemic diseases in China. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (Supplement) 57: 259S–63S

Harrison S J, Yu P W, Thompson P A, Price N M and Phillips D J. 1988. Survey of selenium requirements in marine phytoplankton. Marine Ecology Progress Series 47: 89–96.

Hefnawy A E G and Tortora-Perez J L. 2010. The importance of selenium and the effects of its deficiency in animal health. Small Ruminant Research 89: 185–92.

Hira C K, Partal K and Dhillon K S. 2004. Dietary selenium intake by men and women in high and low selenium areas of Punjab. Public Health Nutrition 7(1): 39–43

Institute of Medicine. 2000. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press. Washington, DC, USA.

Jaiswal S K, Prakash R and Nagaraja T P. 2015. Selenium in storage proteins of wheat cultivated in selenium impacted soils of Punjab, India. Acta Alimantaria 44(2): 235–41.

Jiang Y, Zeng Z H, Bu Y et al. 2015. Effects of selenium fertilizer on grain yield, Se uptake and distribution in common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum). Plant, Soil and Environment 61(8): 371–77.

Jones G D, Droz B, Greve P, Gottschalk P, Poffet D, McGrath S P, Seneviratne S I, Smith P and Winkel L H E. 2016. Selenium deficiency risk predicted to increase under future climate change. PANS Early Edition: 1–6. ( cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1611576114)

Kahn C M. 2005. Merck Veterinary Manual. 9th edn. Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA.

Kumar A and Krishnaswamy K. 2003. Selenium in human health. Nutrition News 24(2): 3–5.

Lakin H W I. 1972. Selenium accumulation in soils and its absorption by plants and animals. Geological Society of America Bulletin 83: 181–89.

Levesque M and Vendette E D. 1971. Selenium determination in soil and plant materials. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 51(1): 85–93.

Li J Y, Ren S X, Cheng D Z, Wan H J, Liang S T, Zhang F J and Gao F M. 1984. Distribution of selenium in the microenvironment related to Kashin-Beck disease. Selenium in Biology and Medicine, pp 911–25. Combs G F, Spallholz J E, Levander O E and Oldfield J E (Eds) New York, AVI Van Nostrand.

Luo X M, Yang C L, Wei H J, Liu X and Qixo C H. 1984. Selenium intake and metabolic balance in 10 men consuming self-selected diets in a selenium-deficient area of Hebei Province, PR China. FASEB Journal 43: 1097.

Lyons G H, Judson G J, Ortiz-Monasterio I, Genc Y, Stangoulis J C and Graham R D. 2005. Selenium in Australia: Selenium status and biofortification of wheat for better health. Journal of Trace Elements and Medicinal Biology 19(1): 75–82.

MacFarquhar J K, Broussard D L, Melstrom P, Hutchinson R, Wolkin A, Martin C, Burk R F, Dunn J R, Green A L, Hammond R, Schaffner W and Jones T F. 2010. Acute selenium toxicity associated with a dietary supplement. Archives of Internal Medicine 170(3): 256–61.

MacLeod J A, Gupta U C, Milburn P and Sanderson J B. 1998. Selenium concentration in plant material, drainage and surface water as influenced by Se applied to barley foliage in a barley–red clover–potato rotation. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 78: 685–88.

Mahalingam T R, Vijayalakshni S, Krishna and Prabhu R. 1997. Studies on some trace and minor elements in blood. A survey of the Kalpakkan (India) population. Part III: Studies on dietary intake and its correlation to blood levels. Biological Trace Element Research 57: 223–38.

Mahapatra S, Tripathi R M, Raghunath R and Sadasivan S. 2001. Daily intake of selenium by the adult population of Mumbai, India. Science of Total Environment 277(1–3): 217–23.

Mathew M and Narayan B. 2006. An easy spectrophotometric determination of selenium using azure B as a chromogenic reagent. Indian Journal of Chemical Technology 13: 455–58.

McLester J S. 1943. Nutrition and diet in health and disease, 4th edn, pp 128–29. WB Saunders, Philadelphia. PA, USA.

Mehdi Y and Dufrasne I. 2016. Selenium in Cattle: A Review. Molecules 21(5): 545–59.

Moreno-Reyes R, Suetens C, Mathieu F, Begaux F, Zhu D, Rivera M T, Boelaert M, Nève J, Perlmutter N and Vanderpas J. 1998. Kashin–Beck osteoarthropathy in rural Tibet in relation to selenium and iodine status. New England Journal of Medicine 339(16): 1112–20.

Ndiweni N, Field T R, Williams M R, Booth J M and Finch J M. 1991. Studies on the incidence of clinical mastitis and blood levels of vitamin E and selenium in dairy herds in England. The Veterinary Record 129(5): 86–88.

NRC. 1996. Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle, 7th edn, (Update 2000); National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, USA,

Papp L V, Lu J, Holmgren A and Khanna K K. 2007. From selenium to selenoproteins: synthesis, identity, and their role in human health. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 9(7): 775–806.

Patel C A and Mehta B V. 1970. Se status of soils and common fodders in Gujarat. Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences 40: 389–99.

Pilon-Smits E A H. 2015. Progress in Botany 76. Luttge U and Beyschlag W (Eds), Springer International Publishing Switzerland (DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-08807-5).

Prasad R and Shivay Y S. 2019. Fertilizer nitrogen and global warming – A review. Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences 89(9): 1401–06.

Prasad R and Shivay Y S. 2020a. Agronomic biofortification of plant foods with minerals, vitamins and metabolites with chemical fertilizers and liming. Journal of Plant Nutrition 43(10): 1534–54.

Prasad R and Shivay Y S. 2020b. Selenium fertilization of crops for sustenance of human and animal nutrition and health. Indian Journal of Fertilisers 16(10): 1034–39.

Prasad R and Shivay Y S. 2021. Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrient Management. 201 p. ISBN: 978-93-90512-27-0. Published by New India Publishing Agency, New Delhi.

Prasad R, Majumdar K, Shivay Y S and Kapil U. 2016. Minerals in Plant and Human Nutrition and Health. International Plant Nutrition Institute, Peachtree Corners, GA, USA, 80 p.

Prasad R, Shivay Y S and Kumar D. 2013. Zinc fertilization of cereals for increased production and alleviation of zinc malnutrition in India. Agricultural Research 2(2): 111–18.

Prasad R, Shivay Y S and Kumar D. 2014. Agronomic biofortification of cereal grains with iron and zinc. Advances in Agronomy 125: 55–91.

Prasad R. 2003. Protein-energy malnutrition and fertilizer use in India. Fertilizer News 48(8): 13–26.

Prasad R. 2007. Crop Nutrition-Principles and Practices, New Delhi, New Vishal Publications. 272 p.

Prasad R. 2012. Micro-mineral nutrient deficiencies in humans, animals, plants and their amelioration. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, India 82 B: 225–33.

Prasad R. 2013. Population growth, food shortages and ways to alleviate hunger. Current Science 105(1): 32–36.

Ran L, Wu X, Shen X, Zhang K, Ren F and Huang K. 2010. Effects of selenium form on blood and milk selenium concentrations, milk component and milk fatty acid composition in dairy cows. Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture 90: 2214–19

Rao C N R. 1999. Understanding Chemistry. University Press (India) Ltd, Hyderabad.

Reeves M A and Hoffmann P R. 2009. The human selenoproteome: recent insights into functions and regulation. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 66(15): 2457–78.

Reilly C. 1996. Selenium in Food and Health. London, Blackie Academic and Professional.

Rogers P, Arora S P, Fleming G A, Crinon R A P and McLaughlin J G. 1990. Selenium toxicity in farm animals: treatment and prevention. Irish Veterinary Journal 43: 151–53.

Ros G H, van Rotterdam A M D, Bussink D W and Bindraban P S. 2016. Selenium fertilization strategies for bio-fortification of food: an agro-ecosystem approach. Plant and Soil 404(1–2): 99–112.

Rossipal E and Tiran B. 1995. Selenium and glutathione peroxidase levels in healthy infants and children in Austria and the influence of nutrition regimens on these levels. Nutrition 11(5 suppl): 573–75.

Rotruck J T, Pope A L, Ganther H E, Swanson A B, Hateman D G and Hoekstra W G. 1973. Selenium: Biochemical role as a component of glutathione peroxidase. Science 179: 588–90.

Saha U, Fayiga A, Biswas B K and Sonon L. 2017. Selenium in soil–crop–animal system: A holistic perspective to manage animal and human health. International Journal of Applied Agricultural Science 3(3): 51–66.

Sharma S. 1984. Selenium research in India. International Journal of Environmental Studies 22(3-4): 231–39.

Shivay Y S and Prasad R 2014b. Effect of source and methods of zinc application on corn productivity, nitrogen and zinc concentrations and uptake by high quality protein corn (Zea mays). Egyptian Journal of Biology 16(1): 72–78.

Shivay Y S and Prasad R. 2014a. Zinc deficiency in humans and its amelioration. Indian Journal of Community Health 27: Supp S1.

Shivay Y S, Kumar D and Prasad R. 2008b. Effect of zinc-enriched urea on productivity, zinc uptake and efficiency of an aromatic rice-wheat cropping system. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 81(3): 229–43.

Shivay Y S, Kumar D, Prasad R and Ahlawat I P S. 2008a. Relative yield and zinc uptake by rice from zinc sulphate and zinc oxide coatings onto urea. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 80(2): 181–88.

Shivay Y S, Prasad R and Pal M. 2013. Zinc fortification of oats grain through zinc fertilisation. Agricultural Research 2(4): 375–81.

Shivay Y S, Prasad R and Pal M. 2014. Effect of variety and zinc application on yield, profitability, protein content and zinc and nitrogen uptake by chickpea (Cicer arietinum). Indian Journal of Agronomy 59(2): 317–21.

Shivay Y S, Prasad R and Rahal A. 2008c. Relative efficiency of zinc oxide and zinc sulphate-enriched urea for spring wheat. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 82: 259–64.

Shivay Y S, Prasad R, Kaur R and Pal M. 2016. Relative efficiency of zinc sulphate and chelated zinc on zinc biofortification of rice grains and zinc use-efficiency in Basmati rice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, India, Section B Biological Sciences 86(4): 973–84.

Singh M and Kumar P. 1976. Se distribution in soils of bioclimatic zones of Haryana. Journal of the Indian Society of Soil Science 24(1): 62–67.

Stadtman T C. 1996. Selenocysteine. Annual Review of Biochemistry 65: 83–100.

Stoffaneller R and Morse M L. 2015. A review of dietary selenium intake and selenium status in Europe and the Middle East. Nutrients 7(3): 1494–1537.

Terry N, Zayed A M, deSouza M P and Tarun A S. 2000. Selenium in higher plants. Annual Review of Plant Physiology 51: 401–32.

Underwood E J. 1981. The Mineral Nutrition of Livestock, 2nd edn. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau, Slough, UK.

Van Metre D C and Callan R J. 2001. Selenium and vitamin E. The Veterinary Clinics of North America. Food Animal Practice 17(2): 373–402.

Villard D, Arthur J R, Gonzalez J M and Pallares F J. 2002. Selenium status in cattle: Interpretation of laboratory results. Bovine Practice 36: 73–80.

Watts D L. 1994. The nutritional relationships of selenium. The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine 9(2): 111–17.

Wilber C G. 1980. Toxicology of selenium-A review. Clinical Toxicology 17: 171–230.

Williams S R. 1973. Nutrition and diet therapy, 2nd edn. Mosby, St Louis M, USA.

Xia Y, Hill K E, Byrne D W, Xu J and Burk R F. 2005. Effectiveness of selenium supplements in a low-selenium area of China. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 81(4): 829–34.

Yadav S K, Singh I, Singh D and Han S D. 2005. Selenium status in soils of northern districts of India. Journal of Environmental Management 75(2): 129–32.








Review Article

How to Cite

PRASAD, R. ., & SINGH SHIVAY, Y. . (2022). Selenium in human and animal nutrition and need for selenium fertilization of crops. The Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 92(4), 431-437.