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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Cereal Disease Lab » Research » Research Project #442329

Research Project: Corn Mycotoxin Mitigation Initiative

Location: Cereal Disease Lab

Project Number: 5062-21220-024-006-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2022
End Date: Jun 30, 2024

The Corn Mycotoxin Mitigation Initiative (CMMI) will focus new technologies and exceptional project management and translation expertise on the ongoing challenge of mycotoxin contamination of corn-based food and feeds. Mycotoxins, produced by fungi, cause serious human and livestock health disorders and loss. The specific objectives of this project are: 1. Build innovative partnerships with researchers, key stakeholders in academic, federal, industrial, and international agriculture organizations. 2. Develop pre-commercial, resistant crop varieties. 3. Develop corn varieties for long-lasting, effective protection against mycotoxin-producing fungi and their toxins. 4. Partner with seed companies to help ensure delivery of mycotoxin-resistant corn varieties to growers in the United States.

Mitigation will be sought by using the best available molecular knowledge and tools for plant-pathogen interactions, in order to build long lasting genetic resistance to fungal infection and toxin production. Resistance to toxigenic fungi will be pursued through multiple approaches to source genes from different parts of the plant immune system, such as effector-triggered immune receptors, pattern recognition receptors, and RNA interference. These molecular defenses will be combined into trait cassettes that together should provide durable protection. Initially CMMI will build a resource of different types of canonical NLR and PRR type resistance genes together with novel resistance mechanisms. The sources of resistance will take an expanded gene pool approach from corn, other grasses, and more evolutionarily distant plants. We will exploit our proprietary tools and libraries, and explore collaborations to test combinations of multiple mechanisms of action. We will source key corn backgrounds appropriate for use in targeted regions of the world, focusing on Northern and Southern U.S. corn production. These backgrounds will be used to introduce resistance genes individually and in combination, and will be tested for infection by Aspergillus and Fusarium in the greenhouse and field. Additionally, the use of the trait for developing agriculture will be explored through international agricultural development partners. Throughout the process we will focus on final products, incorporating strategies to ensure successful regulatory and deployment considerations. These activities will be pursued in partnership with seed companies and appropriate agencies for delivery in U.S. and international markets.