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Epidemiology of ear blight and biology of toxigenic Fusarium species and related pathogenic fungi in cereal crops - AR0515

Fusarium ear blight and the consequent mycotoxin-contaminated grain represent a serious threat to UK cereal growing and food production. This is evident from recent increases in ear blight and mycotoxin contamination to devastating proportions in some parts of the world, particularly North America and Central Europe, and because the main causal fungal pathogen, F. graminearum, is known to be increasing in the UK. The biology of this fungus and the epidemiology of the diseases that it causes (ear blight and brown foot rot) are poorly understood in UK conditions. This will be investigated during different stages in the epidemiology: inoculum production, inoculum dispersal to the ear, and infection of the ear. Emphasis will be on the effects of maize crops and stubble, burial of infested straw and stubble by cultivations, the timing of inoculum production and availability, and interactions with other, associated pathogenic and non-pathogenic fungi and among different toxin-producing strains of the ear blight pathogens. Comparisons will be made with the related toxigenic ear blight fungus, F. culmorum, the behaviour of which is better known in UK conditions but which differs significantly in that it lacks the ability to produce inoculum as sexual ascospores. Understanding these aspects of pathogen behaviour will make a crucial contribution to assessing the extent of the risk and to the formulation of guidelines on crop management to minimise the risk. It will also signpost the way to an integrated approach to controlling the complex of stem-base and ear diseases that includes host resistance and biological control. Its relevance to DEFRA is in its contribution to the protection of the human and animal food chain from toxin contamination and to the sustainability of arable agriculture in the UK. Some of the findings will make an immediate contribution to policy decisions or, on the farm, to crop management advice.

1. To determine relationships between production of sexual and asexual spores of Fusarium species, infection routes and ear blight development.
2. To determine the importance of crop debris from maize and other cereals as inoculum sources for ear blight epidemics, caused especially by Fusarium graminearum.
3. To determine effects on disease of interactions among species and strains of stem-base and ear blight pathogens during infection and inoculum production.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Epidemiology of ear blight and biology of toxigenic fusarium species and related pathogenic fungi in cereal in cereal crops   (5552k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2006

Cost: £417,641
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Rothamsted Research (BBSRC)
Arable Farming              
Climate and Weather              
Climate Change              
Crop Diseases              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Production              
Toxic Substances              
Fields of Study
Arable Crops