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MIMYCS, A framework for simulating maize kernels mycotoxin contamination in Europe

Final Report Summary - MIMYCS (MIMYCS, A framework for simulating maize kernels mycotoxin contamination in Europe)

Mycotoxins are toxic compounds, produced by fungi and recognized as the main cause of chronic intoxications in the world. Limitations set by the European Commission and by other nations of the world on the maximum levels of mycotoxins in cereal grain have had an important socio-economic impact on the global cereal market. Maize is one of the crops subjected to the most critical mycotoxin problems throughout the world. As a consequence, producing maize grain with acceptable mycotoxin content and simultaneously maintaining profitability has become more and more difficult, with important socio-economic consequences. Mycotoxin contamination in maize grain is the result of a complex plant pathosystem formed by maize plants, toxigenic fungi and insect borers. Meteorological and climate conditions play a key role in the contamination. As a consequence, warming of the climate system could have an important impact on the pathosystem and the potential effects are very difficult to foresee. The project MIMYCS has aimed at the development of a simulation model system to simulate the potential risk for contamination by aflatoxins, fumonisins, and deoxynivalenol, which are the three main toxin contaminating maize grain during the field phase.
The MIMYCS model has been implemented as a component of the framework BioMA, the modelling platform used at the European Commission Joint Research Centre. MIMYCS has been developed as composed by three main model software components. The model component MIMYCS.Maize includes the crop model CropSyst and simulates maize phenological development and maize grain moisture during development, maturation, and dry-down. The model component MIMYCS.Borers simulates the phenological development and damage activity of the two main maize borers (Ostrinia nubilalis and Sesamia nonagrioides) having a key role in mycotoxin contamination. The model component MIMYCS.Fungi simulates fungi development and their competitive interactions, and the consequent mycotoxin synthesis. Finally, the MIMYCS simulation system, quantifies the risk of mycotoxin contamination in maize grain, insect borers damage and fungi infection. The project has been developed in two years in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The project has also attracted the interest of a private company interested in the models of the MIMYCS framework: a collaboration agreement has been signed and work is on-going for implementing the MIMYCS models in the agro-management software system that this private company uses to assist their clients.
The main results of the project MIMYCS include:
- development of an original model for the simulation of moisture content in maize kernels during their development, maturation, and dry-down;
- implementation of a phenological model for the simulation of the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) and the Mediterranean corn borer (Sesamia nonagrioiodes);
- development of an original model for the simulation of fungi development, infection of maize grain, and mycotoxin synthesis;
- implementation of the models in independent, reusable, and extensible software components;
- Development of a framework of model integrating the three models components above, implemented as an independent model software component that was included in the BioMA platform of the European Commission
- Simulations at EU scale of maize borers phenological development under future climate scenarios
- Collaboration agreement with a private company interested in MIMYCS models.
Results of the project have been disseminated through poster and oral presentations in international scientific congresses and partially through peer reviewed scientific papers. Results will also be disseminated through web-pages in the web-site of the Joint Research Centre. Other papers to be submitted to ISI journals are in preparation.
A relevant part of the project has been dedicated to scientific and complementary training activities which have included:
- Process-based modelling and biophysical model development
- Insect pest population dynamics modelling
- Object oriented and component oriented programming with C#
- Writing of scientific papers
- Project management
- Agrometeorological analysis and crop forecast
- Writing of scientific reports to the European Commission
- ISO 9000 specifications for project management
- Writing of project poposals
The project has aimed at providing a first operational tool to simulate at EU scale mycotoxin contamination in maize grain in different climatic, environmental and agro-management situations. In this context, the development of MIMYCS will allow an easy re-use of it for performing simulations (i) to inform European policy makers involved in food and feed safety of the effects of European mycotoxin policies and help them to fix safe and, at the same time, feasible contamination limits, (ii) to assess about climate change scenario effects on the pathosystem and on future maize-based food and feed products safety, (iii) to assist maize producers in controlling mycotoxin contamination through agro-management and improving maize grain safety.
A Software Development Kit (SDK) is being prepared including software technical documentation, software examples, and development tools to help and enhance the implementation by third parties of the MIMYCS models. In this way, the models and the model framework developed during the MIMYCS project will be soon made available to the public through the Joint Research Centre web site.