Applied and environmental microbiology

Interactions between head blight pathogens: consequences for disease development and toxin production in wheat spikes.

PMID 25416772


Head blight (HB) is one of the most damaging diseases on wheat, inducing significant yield losses and toxin accumulation in grains. Fungal pathogens responsible for HB include the genus Microdochium, with two species, and the toxin producer genus Fusarium, with several species. Field studies and surveys show that two or more species can coexist within a same field and coinfect the same plant or the same spike. In the current study, we investigated how the concomitant presence of F. graminearum and another of the HB complex species influences the spike colonization and the toxin production by the fungi. To study these interactions, 17 well-characterized isolates representing five species were inoculated alone or in pairs on wheat spikes in greenhouse and field experiments. The fungal DNA in the grains was estimated by quantitative PCR and toxin contents (deoxynivalenol and nivalenol) by ultraperformance liquid chromatography-UV detection-tandem mass spectrometry. The responses of the different isolates to the presence of a competitor were variable and isolate specific more than species specific. The development of the most aggressive isolates was either unchanged or a slightly increased, while the development of the less aggressive isolates was reduced. The main outcome of the study was that no trend of increased toxin production was observed in coinoculations compared to single inoculations. On the contrary, the amount of toxin produced was often lower than expected in coinoculations. We thus conclude against the hypothesis that the co-occurrence of several HB-causing species in the same field might aggravate the risk linked to fusarium toxins in wheat production.

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