Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Cereal Disease Lab » Research » Research Project #423064


Location: Cereal Disease Lab

Project Number: 5062-22000-024-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Apr 11, 2012
End Date: Mar 26, 2017

The long-term objective of this project is to reduce crop loss and mycotoxin contamination due to Fusarium head blight (FHB), the most serious disease for the U.S. wheat and barley industry. Characterization of the fungal genes critical for disease development will be emphasized, along with changes in FHB pathogen populations over time in the U.S. and understanding the makeup of fungal communities associated with diseased and healthy spring wheat. Over the next 5 years we will focus on the following objectives: Objective 1. Develop genomic sequence information for the Fusarium head blight pathogen and related fungi to identify factors involved in pathogenicity, sporulation, and toxin synthesis. Sub-objective 1.A. Obtain whole genome sequence data from strains of Fusarium graminearum and F. oxysporum that differ in toxin profiles, virulence and host specificity. Sub-objective 1.B. Identify genes uniquely or differentially expressed during spore development that define spore characteristics and function. Sub-objective 1.C. Determine the function of genes differentially expressed in spores or associated with pathogenicity and toxin production. Objective 2. Develop early warning systems tools, including molecular markers, for detection of known and novel mycotoxins in small grains. Sub-objective 2.A. Monitor genetic changes in critical pathogen populations by pathogen surveys. Sub-objective 2.B. Identify genomic characteristics of distinct populations or chemotypes of F. graminearum by resequencing representative strains. Objective 3. Develop a metagenomic approach to define fungal communities in healthy and diseased fields naturally infested with the FHB fungus. Sub-objective 3.A. Use metagenomics to characterize rhizosphere and endophytic fungal community composition and diversity among plants grown in experimental communities. Sub-objective 3.B. Determine the relative abundance of competitive phenotypes and impacts on plant productivity.

Improved management strategies are needed to maintain adequate plant disease control. Specific approaches include: 1) Genomic sequence information obtained from the fungal pathogen, Fusarium, will be used to identify genes related to fungal pathogenesis, possibly leading to novel approaches to control Fusarium head blight disease and reduce toxin levels in grain; 2) Fusarium head blight levels, strain diversity, and the nature of associated fungal communities, will be monitored by population genetic and metagenomic approaches improving the ability to forecast the economic impact and the design of effective management strategies.