New biocontrol to fight fusarium in cereals

A new biocontrol is proposed to use fungal microbes to prevent healthy wheat heads (top) from damage by fusarium head blight (bottom). (Keith Weller photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

Using fire to fight fire, a new biocontrol product could be commercialized for use against fusarium head blight in a year or two.

Adjuvants Plus at Kingsville, Ont. has reached a licensing agreement with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to use its patented technology — a fungal organism called Clonostachys rosea, strain ACM941 — to prevent fusarium head blight in wheat and cereals

The product has the potential to work on other food crops, company president Bill Brown said in an interview Thursday.

Clonostachys rosea ACM941, a fungal microbe isolated from the lower leaf of a field pea plant in Manitoba, infects and kills fusarium and other disease pathogens. It was patented by Allen Xue of AAFC’s Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre in 1999.

ACM941, a living product, will be sprayed on wheat before the bloom stage. To protect wheat from fusarium, it must first infect it, but in so doing doesn’t hurt the wheat, Brown said.

“You’re colonizing the plant and the head and getting it right inside the grain,” he said. “Once that occurs the (fusarium) control is good.

“It really prevents it (fusarium) getting in. It’s there first. It’s simple site occupation followed by food source denial.”

In some cases the ACM941 will feed on fusarium, Brown said.

“It’s kind of like a guard dog — it keeps you against the fence unless it gets hungry.”

The new product will work well in an integrated pest management program, providing farmers with another mode of action for preventing fusarium head blight infections, Brown said.

The product is also expected to be approved for organic use.

Fusarium head blight is a major wheat disease in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, costing farmers billions of dollars annually in lost yields and reduced quality.

The infection can also produce vomitoxin, which in high enough levels prevents the contaminated wheat from being used for human consumption or animal feed.

Manitoba farmers are reporting high levels of fusarium-damaged kernels in this year’s winter wheat.

— Allan Dawson is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man. More to come on this story in next week’s issue.


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