Identifying fungi that cause Fusarium head blight in cereal grains has become much easier, thanks to a new DNA-based test developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Peoria, Ill.

At least 16 species of Fusarium can cause head blight, a disease that can reduce yields and contaminate cereals with toxins that can make grain unsafe for food or feed. From 1998 to 2000, these pathogens accounted for $2.7 billion in losses to U.S. agriculture.

The test makes it possible for the first time to simultaneously identify all of the major head blight pathogens and predict their toxin profiles. The scientists envision using the test to understand the distribution of these pathogens worldwide, as well as to determine if individual pathogen species prefer certain crops or environments. This information is critical to the development of effective disease control strategies, including the production of cereal cultivars with broad resistance to Fusarium head blight pathogens.

Source: Government Release