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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1321: III International Symposium on Soilless Culture and Hydroponics: Innovation and Advanced Technology for Circular Horticulture

Microgreens: from trendy vegetables to functional food and potential nutrition security resource

Authors:   F. Di Gioia, S.A. Petropoulos, I.C.F.R. Ferreira, E.N. Rosskopf
Keywords:   agrobiodiversity, biofortification, food deserts, food resilience, human health, malnutrition, food emergency, nutrition security
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1321.31
Starting as trendy high-value gourmet greens, today, microgreens have gained great popularity among consumers for their nutritional profile and high content of antioxidant compounds. Microgreens' nutritional profile is associated with the rich variety of colors, shapes, textural properties, and flavors obtained from sprouting a multitude of edible vegetable species, including herbs, herbaceous crops, and neglected wild edible species. Grown in a variety of soilless production systems, over the last five years in many urban and peri-urban areas of the world, microgreens have literally exploded as a cash crop produced in various protected culture systems and especially indoors through the use of artificial lighting systems. The ability to grow microgreens indoors in very small space, the short growth cycle required, and only minimum inputs required to produce them may allow the micro-scale production of fresh and nutritious vegetables even in areas that are considered food deserts. The current COVID-19 pandemic revealed the vulnerability of our food system and the need to address malnutrition issues and nutrition security inequality which could be exacerbated by potential future situations of emergency or catastrophe. Microgreens have great potential as an efficient food resilience resource, since they can provide essential nutrients and antioxidants. Using simple soilless production systems, seeds, and minimal inputs, nutrient-dense microgreens and shoots may be produced under different lighting conditions ranging from darkness to full sunlight or under artificial lighting in controlled environmental conditions, providing a rich source of essential nutrients and antioxidant compounds in a very short time. Moreover, using simple agronomic techniques, it is possible to produce biofortified or tailored functional micro-vegetables that could address specific dietary needs and/or address micronutrient deficiencies and nutrition security issues in emergency situations or limiting environmental conditions.

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