Boron (B)

Boron is a fascinating, essential trace mineral in plant and animal nutrition. It has long been used as an industrial chemical with roles in timber treatment, ceramics, semi-conductors and many other processes, but its status as an essential trace mineral nutrient has only recently been established.

Only in 1981 was it found to be essential for growing chicks in the poultry industry. This stimulated interest in research and finally, in 1991 it was identified as an essential nutrient for humans. No RDA has been postulated because there is still much to learn about this mineral. What we do know is that adequate boron levels in soil produces food and forage crops with natural forms of boron that can safely be eaten by livestock and people. Like most trace elements, taken in excess as a supplement it can become toxic.

We now know that boron has a variety of roles. In plants it protects against pathogens, particularly during the flowering phase. It aids plant uptake of magnesium and prevents excessive uptake of aluminium. Boron also helps to protect crops from attack from insects and their larvae (in concentrated form it can serve as an insecticide).

In livestock animals boron aids the formation of meat and bone and it is likely to have other significant roles as yet undefined.

In the human diet, boron is now seen to aid bone calcification, prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Research has discovered that people with good dietary levels of boron have much stronger bones and a lower incidence of arthritis. Orthopaedic surgeons have even noted that the bones of this group are much harder to cut through!
Other studies have shown that dietary boron helps maintain hormone levels in older men and post-menopausal women. It has even been used by bodybuilders as a steroid substitute.

Boron Deficiency Symptoms in Plants

Brown heart in root vegetables
5 o’clock shadow on root surface
Short and/or cracked stems
Crown rot
Poor root growth

Boron Deficiency Symptoms in Livestock

Poor bone development
Poor metabolism of vitamins, particularly D Group
Poor calcium metabolism