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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Mycotoxin Prevention and Applied Microbiology Research » Research » Research Project #438642

Research Project: Improving Food Safety by Controlling Mycotoxin Contamination and Enhancing Climate Resilience of Wheat and Barley

Location: Mycotoxin Prevention and Applied Microbiology Research

Project Number: 5010-11420-001-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 5, 2021
End Date: Jan 4, 2026

Objective 1: Identify Fusarium graminearum (Fg) virulence factors and/or fitness traits that can be targeted to reduce grain mycotoxin contamination. [C1, PS2] Sub-objective 1.A: Identify and characterize core effectors of Fg that can be targeted to reduce initial infection of wheat and barley. Sub-objective 1.B: Identify and characterize Fg population-specific factors that contribute to differences in virulence and mycotoxin contamination of wheat and barley. Objective 2: Identify germplasm that can be used by breeders to simultaneously target climate resilient mycotoxin resistance and high grain quality traits. [C1, PS2] Sub-objective 2.A: Evaluate the resilience of FHB resistance to e[CO2] in MR and S wheat cultivars. Sub-objective 2.B: Determine the impact of e[CO2] on the production of Fg mycotoxins and other secondary metabolites during growth on wheat and barley grains. Sub-objective 2.C: Determine the impact of e[CO2] on the nutritional quality of FHB MR parent wheat lines and identify potential breeding strategies to maintain grain quality. Objective 3: Manipulate microbial populations or metabolites to control trichothecene contamination of grain and malting barley. [C1, PS2, PS5] Sub-objective 3.A: Evaluate the efficacy of Sarocladium and Paenibacillus as biocontrol agents to control FHB and mycotoxin contamination of grains. Sub-objective 3.B: Determine how perithecial pigmentation affects production, discharge, and germination of Fusarium ascospores so that these metabolites can be manipulated to reduce Fg inoculum in the field. Sub-objective 3.C: Develop a biofumigant from plant derived metabolites to inhibit fungal growth and mycotoxin production during barley malting.

Mycotoxins are poisonous fungal metabolites that contaminate cereals, making them unsafe for human or livestock consumption. Contamination originates in the field during grain development when crops become infected by mycotoxigenic fungal pathogens that can result in diseases with significant economic losses. Fusarium head blight (FHB), is a devastating disease of wheat and barley that is caused primarily by the fungal pathogen Fusarium graminearum (Fg) which produces mycotoxins, including trichothecenes and zearalenone. FHB is a complex ecological problem that has been difficult to eradicate because infection is dependent on multiple interacting factors. The severity of FHB is contingent on the prevalence, virulence, and aggressiveness of the pathogen, the genetic potential of the host plant’s resistance, as well as other abiotic and biotic environmental factors that influence the outcome of the plant-pathogen interactions. Previous efforts by scientists in the FHB community have laid a foundation of information on pathogen virulence and host resistance, but we need to further understand how environmental factors shape the outcome and impact of interactions. Using a holistic approach that tackles the problem from multiple angles, we propose to target factors that can be manipulated to impose mycotoxin control: 1) Fg pathogenic fitness, 2) resilience of crop resistance, and 3) beneficial microorganisms and microbial or plant metabolites. Knowledge obtained from this approach will aid in the development of integrated climate-resilient control strategies for FHB and mycotoxin contamination of grains, thereby reducing the impact of mycotoxins on our food supply. These studies will ultimately benefit growers; small grain breeders; stakeholders in the food and feed industry; other research scientists; regulatory agencies (United States Food and Drug Administration, USDA Federal Grain Inspection Service, and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service); and most importantly the consumer.