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Novel tools for developing fusarium resistant and toxin free wheat for europe

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Standardised trials for toxin free wheat

Fusarium infection in wheat continues to cause crop losses and a threat to human health by the production of mycotoxins. The European project FUCOMYR has investigated the introduction of standardised trials as a step towards accurate assessment of control methods.

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An obvious answer to the elimination of Fusarium infection in wheat crops is to use advanced genomics technologies for resistance breeding. However, in order to achieve this goal, it is essential that the trial methods employed reflect the true nature of the results obtained. In the case of Fusarium infection and resistance, there are many variables that creep into the methodology that may affect the significance of the results. Researchers at the Interuniversity Research Institute for Agrobiotechnology Tulln in Austria investigated the means by which different project teams conducted the crop trials to determine the level of Fusarium resistance. Variations in method were many, even within the confines of the project. As a prime example, for the first step of inoculation some teams used mist irrigation for application and others distributed diseased residues on the soil. After inoculation, only some trials placed plastic bags on the seed heads to encourage fungal development through high temperature and humidity. Another variable, timing of inoculation, could also be crucial. The disease can be applied at various times including flowering or seed-head stage. Furthermore, during evaluation, the extent of infection can be observed at distinct times during flowering but other assessments were performed at times independent of flowering date. There are also many scales for measurement of infection and use of a specific one within replicated trials could be essential for standardisation. The team members investigated methods employed very thoroughly and calculated correlations between results. High correlations were achieved between some groups' results and this could well be attributable to similarities in techniques. Recommendations were also made regarding other factors that could adversely affect the significance of results. Research that will help the agricultural industry to eradicate Fusarium in wheat will help to safeguard against the input of dangerous mycotoxins into the food chain. Moreover, disease free cereal will be able to further improve the reputation of the standards of the European wheat crop in the global market.

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