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Sustainability, product safety and quality in cereals:Development of novel quantitative models for risk assessment for mycotoxigenic fusarium species

Ear blight, caused by several Fusarium species, is a significant threat to wheat production in the European Union. The distribution and predominance of the species are mainly determined by climatic conditions. Fusarium species can produce a range of mycotoxins, which may pose a considerable health threat to consumers. This project aims to obtain data relating climatic conditions to the occurrence of Fusarium ear blight (FEB) and mycotoxin production in order to develop quantitative risk assessment models on a pan-European scale. These models will be a useful support tool for farmers when making decisions concerning the necessity of fungicide treatments against FEB and the potential risk of mycotoxin production in grains. Thus, the models will help farmers optimise fungicide input and produce healthy, safe food whilst adopting sound and environmentally friendly practices that promote sustainable agriculture.

The objectives of this project are:
1) to obtain a large body of quantitative data on FEB (measured as visual disease symptom and fungal DNA biomass) and produce associated mycotoxins in controlled environments (CE)
2) to develop quantitative risk assessment models from the CE data
3) to collect field data on FEB development and production of the associated mycotoxins from a large number of sites in Europe with contrasting climatic conditions
4) to refine the models using field data collected from 80 sites in four European countries.

Progress to Date
The project is progressing as planned and studies are continuing to be conducted in:
1) determining the interactions between fungal isolates and European cultivars in affecting FEB
2) obtaining quality data on FEB development, mycotoxin accumulations and climatic conditions
3) collecting field data on FEB development and mycotoxin production.

Interaction between Fusarium isolates and European cultivars
Both species and country of origin significantly affected the responses to temperature. Results obtained so far indicate that F. culmorum, F. graminearum and F. avenaceum cause greater severity of disease than F. poae and M. nivale.
CE studies on infection conditions
Preliminary analysis of the results indicated that there appeared to be a good relationship between disease incidence and weather variables (temperature and duration of wet periods) for all Fusarium species tested except M. nivale (var nivale). FEB increased with a greater duration of wet periods. Of all the species studied, F. poae appeared to be least pathogenic to wheat ears.
Field sampling
Fusarium DNA and mycotoxins were quantified in all the grain samples for Year 1 and there were large variations in the amount of fungal DNA and mycotoxins. Of the four countries, Ireland had the greatest disease incidence overall and FEB in Hungary and Italy was generally very low.


Scientist responsible for the project

East Malling, West Malling, Kent
ME19 6BJ West Malling
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 1732 843833
Fax: +44 1732 849067


Project ID QLRT-1999-31517
Organisation Horticulture Research International
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 October 2000
Duration (months) 48
Total cost 3 165 204 €
Total EC contribution   2 034 157 €
Status Ongoing

The partners

  • Universita di Napoli Federico II Dipartmento di Scienza degli Alimenti, Italy - IT

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