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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Cereal Disease Lab » Research » Research Project #431321

Research Project: Fusarium Head Blight of Cereals: Pathogen Biology, Associated Phytobiome, and Host Resistance

Location: Cereal Disease Lab

Project Number: 5062-21220-022-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 27, 2017
End Date: Mar 16, 2022

Objective 1: Discover specific factors involved in pathogenicity, sporulation and toxin synthesis for the FHB pathogen and related fungi by applying genomic and functional approaches. Sub-objective 1.A. Functionally characterize cellular processes and structures that determine plant pathogenesis. Sub-objective 1.B. Identify genes uniquely or differentially expressed during development that defines pathogen structure and function. Objective 2: Relate fungal genotypes to mycotoxin production in fungal strains in field production environments to aid in developing enhanced methods of control. Sub-objective 2.A. Monitor genetic changes in critical pathogen populations by pathogen surveys. Sub-objective 2.B. Characterize populations of Fusarium from native North American grasses that may be sources of novel pathogen genotypes and/or host resistance. Objective 3: Optimize metagenomic and functional approaches to define the phytobiome of healthy and diseased plants naturally infested with the FHB fungus. Sub-objective 3.A. Characterize phytobiome and soil carbon composition. Sub-objective 3.B. Determine the relative abundance of competitive phenotypes and impacts on plant productivity. Objective 4: Identify novel sources of plant disease resistance to FHB and mycotoxins produced by FHB fungi to improve breeding for resistance. Sub-objective 4.A. Characterize the epigenetic changes of FHB resistant durum cultivars produced by altering the DNA methylation pattern. Sub-objective 4.B. Characterize durum lines missing a portion of chromosome 2A region that may contain the FHB suppressor locus. Objective 5: Introgress new genes of scab resistance into barley and wheat germplasm.

Improved management strategies are needed to maintain adequate plant disease control. Specific approaches include: 1) Genetic information obtained from the fungal pathogen, Fusarium, will be used to identify genes factors responsible for fungal pathogenesis, possibly leading to novel approaches to control FHB disease and reduce toxin levels in grain; 2) FHB 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; 3) Novel sources of FHB resistance and mycotoxin tolerance will be developed for plants.