The strong dependence of human nutrition on the environmental sustainability of crop production has come into focus as problem-solving efforts work to identify mechanisms to feed the World’s rapidly growing population (1). Current malnourishment statistics are high and contemporary agricultural practices are a dominant force in damaging the very environments on which the production of nutritious food depends (1, 2). In the U.S., food production utilizes 50% of land and is responsible for 80% of total freshwater consumption (3), which occurs at a rate that is faster than aquifer recharge in some regions. Food production also depends heavily of fertilizer and pesticide application, which is adversely impacting ecosystem biodiversity (2). Additionally, cultivation is increasingly focused on the mass production of fewer staple crops. This reduces the nutritional value of the average diet and makes food production less resilient to environmental change (4, 5), should it be the demise of one or more of these relatively few crops. Therefore, simply upscaling current agricultural practices to increase crop yields is not a viable solution for feeding the World’s population. It is a priority to establish dietary guidelines that satisfy human nutritional requirements with a diversity of foods that can be produced with minimized environmental impact (6–8); this is key to ensuring socioeconomic and sociocultural prosperity into the future (2).
Current malnourishment statistics are high and are exacerbated by contemporary agricultural practices that damage the very environments on which the production of nutritious food depends. As the World’s population grows at an unprecedented rate, food systems must be revised to provide adequate nutrition while minimizing environmental impacts. One specific nutritional problem that needs attention is mineral (e.g., Fe and Zn) malnutrition, which impacts over two-thirds of the World’s people living in countries of every economic status. Microgreens, the edible cotyledons of many vegetables, herbs, and flowers, is a newly emerging crop that may be a dense source of nutrition and has the potential to be produced in just about any locale.