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Distribution of disease symptoms and mycotoxins in maize ears infected by Fusarium culmorum and Fusarium graminearum.

Abstract
Red ear rot an important disease of maize cultivated in Europe is caused by toxigenic Fusarium species like Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium culmorum. To get detailed information on the time course of the infection process leading to the accumulation of Fusarium mycotoxins in maize ears, a field study was conducted over 2 years with two maize varieties, which were inoculated with F. culmorum or F. graminearum isolates at the stage of female flowering. Every fortnight after inoculation, infection and contamination progress in the ears was followed by visually evaluating disease signs and analysing Fusarium toxin concentrations in the infected ear tissues. In principle, infection and mycotoxin distribution were similar in respect of pathogens, varieties, and years. External infection symptoms showing some small pale or brown-marbled kernels with dark brown pedicels were mainly seen at the ear tip, whereas internal infection symptoms on the rachis were much more pronounced and spread in the upper half showing greyish brownish or pink discoloration of the pith. Well correlated with disease symptoms, a top-down gradient from high to low toxin levels within the ear with considerably higher concentrations in the rachis compared with the kernels was observed. It is suggested that both Fusarium pathogens primarily infect the rachis from the tip toward the bottom, whereas the kernels are subsequently infected via the rachillae connected to the rachis. A special focus on the pronounced disease symptoms visible in the rachis may be an approach to improve the evaluation of maize-genotype susceptibility against red ear rot pathogens. It has to be underlined that the accumulation of Fusarium mycotoxins in the rachis greatly accelerated 6 weeks after inoculation; therefore, highest contamination risk is indicated for feedstuffs containing large amounts of rachis (e.g., corn cob mix), especially when cut late in growing season.
AuthorsElisabeth Oldenburg, Frank Ellner
JournalMycotoxin research (Mycotoxin Res) Vol. 31 Issue 3 Pg. 117-26 (Aug 2015) ISSN: 1867-1632 [Electronic] Germany
PMID25904523 (Publication Type: Journal Article)

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