BACKGROUND: Zinc (Zn) is essential for all life forms and its deficiency is a major issue of malnutrition in humans. This study was carried out to characterize 28 wheat genotypes of Pakistani origin for grain zinc biofortification potential, genetic diversity and relatedness. RESULTS: There was low genetic differentiation among the tested genotypes. However, they differed greatly in yield-related traits, grain mineral (Zn, calcium (Ca) and protein) concentrations and Zn bioavailability. Zinc application increased the concentration of Zn in wheat grain (32.1%), embryo (19.8%), aleurone (47%) and endosperm (23.7%), with an increase in bioavailable Zn (22.2%) and a reduction in phytate concentration (6.8%). Application of Zn also enhanced grain protein and Ca concentrations. Among wheat genotypes, Blue Silver had the highest concentration of Zn in grain, embryo, aleurone and endosperm, with high bioavailable Zn, while Kohinoor-83 had low phytate concentration. CONCLUSION: Wheat genotypes of Pakistan are genetically less diverse owing to continuous focus on the development of high-yielding varieties only. Therefore genetically diverse wheat genotypes with high endospermic Zn concentration and better grain yield should be used in breeding programs approaches, aiming at improving Zn bioavailability.
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