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Fertilizers with added selenium improve Finland’s daily diet

Oslo, May 14, 2012
Yara fertilizer products in Finland have a special local touch: added selenium to compensate for a local lack of the essential element. Finland is a region known for low soil selenium and fortification of fertilizers is crucial to improve the daily diet, preserving animal and human health.
Cattle farmer Jaakko Veräväinen

"YaraMila and FinCan products have selenium added, stemming from a decision by the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry that this was the safest and most effect way to provide the micronutrient to people and animals," explains Yara Finland Marketing Manager Jari Pentinmäki.

By supplementing compound fertilizers with sodium selenate, plants can convert the inorganic selenium into organic forms, which are more efficiently utilized by humans and animals.

"Selenium fertilization in Finland has proved to be an effective way to improve the quality of our daily diet," says Yara Finland Communications Manager Seija Luomanperä, who is also a member of the national selenium board.

Fortified fertilization is needed in Finland because there is not enough selenium in soils to be available for plants.  “Plants grown organically or with fertilizers not supplemented with selenium contain only about ten percent of the amount of selenium needed," Seija says.

Selenium deficiency can cause serious problems

Selenium is a basic mineral that is essential to good health, but only required in small amounts. Plants are the main dietary source of selenium, but the selenium content of food depends on the level of selenium in the soil where plants are grown or animals are raised.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO),  selenium is important in humans to protect tissues against oxidative stress and to maintain the body’s defense systems against infection.  Severe deficiency can result in general fatigue, hypothyroidism, and Keshan disease, leading to a specific condition where a weakening of the heart impacts general health.

Selenium deficiency can also affect health in animals, causing, for example, problems in their body´s defense mechanisms and reproductive disorders. 
 
Yara's selenium supplements compensated for the lack in Finnish soil, and improved animal and human health. But recently, fertilizer imports have been increasing, with farmers unaware that selenium is not a standard component."This has resulted in a loss of calves and foals that are very sensitive to selenium deficiency in feed. Farmers believed selenium was present in all fertilizer because it has been for so long in Yara, and previously GrowHow, products.  Now we must highlight the functional benefits of selenium - in our fertilizers," says Jari.

Last year, after one calf died and the veterinary studies revealed selenium deficiency, cattle farmer Jaakko Veräväinen  found out that the serious problems his animals developed was due to using fertilizer without selenium for several years. Calves were born weak and could not stand up.  To solve the acute selenium deficiency several things had to be done: selenium was added to the animals’ drinking water and some shots had to be given. “The added work and costs convinced me not to use fertilizers without selenium any longer.  I am very  happy to use Yara fertilizers to ensure the health of my animals,” says Jaakko.

In Finland, Yara has launched a new information campaign, including advertisements and a micro-site (www.seleeni.fi - in Finnish), which include case stories to remind users of the importance of using fertilizers supplemented with selenium.

Tailored solutions for improving animal and human health

"Yara Finland's selenium-containing fertilizers are unique in the market. We can offer products that farmers, especially those with animal production like milk producers, need," says Seija.

As a forerunner in food chain cooperation, Yara is committed to offering crop nutrition solutions that improve crop quality and nutritional value, making an impact on customers and society at large.  "We offer products designed not only to meet plant nutrient needs - but also aspects of animal and human health,” Seija adds.

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