Microbial agents to control diseases of wheat in Canada and to minimize mycotoxin contamination of small grains

Project Code BPI08-020

Project Lead

David McKenzie and Allen Xue  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada


To test formulated biocontrol agents in field and controlled environment experiments and select a most promising agent for commercialisation

Wheat is one of the most important crops in Canada. Comprising over 10 million hectares, Canada produces between 22 and 24 million tons a year, for a farm gate value of 4 billion dollars annually. Fusarium graminearum and related species cause Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) of cereals and a variety of other diseases such as seed rot, seedling blight, and root rots. When the Fusarium infects grains in the cereal head they can become shrivelled and pinkish coloured. If infected at a later stage no outward signs of infection exist, but the grain becomes contaminated by mycotoxins that are very harmful to humans and animals. F. graminearum is a disease of global concern for which there are currently no chemical controls that are fully effective.

This project brought together researchers from Canada and the USA who had been working independently in this area. AAFC researcher Allen Xue has identified high performance microbial strains for the control of Fusarium Head Blight, and industry partner ICUS, together with Cornell University have brought strains that induce resistance, while providing broad spectrum control to this project. Proprietary formulation technology was used to produce experimental products for field and controlled environment experiments to test these biocontrol agents against cereals diseases. Field trials and Mycotoxin evaluations were performed at the AAFC research facility in Ottawa ON. Seed and seedling disease growth chamber studies were conducted at the AAFC research location in St. John's NL, and induced resistance studies were performed at Cornell University. As a result of these experiments, the fungus Clonostachys rosea strain ACM941 was selected for commercialisation due to its capability to both reduce FHB and mycotoxin levels and also suppress the development of disease inoculum for subsequent crops. More trials will be conducted in the year 2009 under BPI09-040, BPI09-050 and BPI09-070.

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