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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Maricopa, Arizona » U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center » Pest Management and Biocontrol Research » Research » Research Project #440204

Research Project: Safer Food through Aflatoxin Control in Pakistan: Phase II Aflatoxin Biocontrol in Chili

Location: Pest Management and Biocontrol Research

Project Number: 2020-42000-023-023-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Jun 15, 2021
End Date: Sep 30, 2021

Research and outreach led by scientists in Pakistan will: 1) Evaluate the potential to expand the label for the aflatoxin biocontrol product AflaPak to include chilies, 2) Identify atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus from chilies that can be developed into additional aflatoxin biocontrol products, and 3) Optimize aflatoxin biocontrol recommendations for commercial chili production in Pakistan. In support of the this work, USDA-ARS scientists from the Tucson, Arizona Aflatoxin Biocontrol Lab will 1) Assist with development of sampling protocols and experimental design for research aimed at identifying atoxigenic A. flavus that can be used for biocontrol of aflatoxin in chilies, 2) Provide technical training on methods for characterizing A. flavus populations, and 3) Genetically characterize A. flavus isolated from chilies in Pakistan.

In November 2020, CABI and CDRI collected 52 chili samples from major chili growing provinces in Pakistan. In November 2020, virtual training sessions led by USDA-ARS scientists commenced, and these have been held on demand (approximately monthly) to facilitate research project design and implementation. These technical trainings will continue on an as-needed basis in order to guide the project and increase the aflatoxin biocontrol research capacity and expertise in Pakistan. Currently, scientists at CDRI are in the process of isolating A. flavus from chili samples and identifying isolates with deletions in the aflatoxin biosynthesis gene cluster. DNA will be extracted from atoxigenic isolates (those with deletions in the aflatoxin cluster) and shipped to the Aflatoxin Biocontrol Lab of the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Tucson, Arizona. These samples will then be genotyped using simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers, and chili sample genotypes will be compared to those previously identified from maize samples collected in Pakistan. This analysis will determine if the AflaPak genotype occurs in association with chili, identify the atoxigenic genotypes most frequently isolated from chili in Pakistan, and elucidate whether certain atoxigenic genotypes are commonly associated with both the maize and chili crop in Pakistan. AflaPak and/or other atoxigenic A. flavus strains will be evaluated for field efficacy in chili, and USDA-ARS scientists will assist with experimental design for field trials and conduct sample analyses as needed.