Characterization and management of major fungal diseases and mycotoxin contamination of grain sorghum in the mid-Atlantic U.S.

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Virginia Tech


Industry demand for local sources of grain for animal feed has increased sorghum production in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Sorghum anthracnose (causal agent Colletotrichum sublineola) and the grain mold complex, which includes mycotoxin-producing Fusarium spp., limit the yield and quality of grain sorghum in humid climates worldwide. A majority of U.S. grain sorghum production is in arid regions, and management strategies have not been developed for the mid-Atlantic U.S. where warm, wet conditions favor disease. The specific objectives of this research were to: (1) determine the effectiveness of fungicides and their application timing for the management of sorghum foliar anthracnose, (2) compare five grain sorghum hybrids for their susceptibility to foliar anthracnose, grain mold and mycotoxin contamination under field conditions, (3) integrate host resistance and fungicide application to manage anthracnose and grain mold, and (4) identify Fusarium spp. associated with grain mold and mycotoxin contamination of sorghum in the mid-Atlantic U.S. For Objective 1, it was determined that a single application of pyraclostrobin-containing fungicide no later than flowering reduced anthrancose, protected yield and maximized farm income. Objective 2 focused on sorghum hybrid selection as a disease management tactic, and it was determined that hybrids with high yield potential and moderate disease resistance should be selected for mid-Atlantic sorghum production in order to maximize grain yield and quality while minimizing the need for fungicide inputs. Objective 3 focused on integrated management and demonstrated that under moderate disease pressure, a high-yielding susceptible hybrid required a single application of pyraclostrobin-based fungicide to minimize fungal diseases and maintain acceptable yields, whereas under high disease pressure it was necessary to integrate hybrid resistance and judicous applications of fungicides. The aim of Objective 4 was to characterize potential causal agents of mycotoxin contamination in mid-Atlantic sorghum, and thirteen phylogenetically distinct Fusarium species (F. lacertarum, F. graminearum. F. armeniacum, F. proliferatum, F. fujikuroi, F. verticillioides, F. thapsinum and several in Fusarium incarnatum-equiseti species complex) were found to be associated with grain mold and fumonisin and/or deoxynivalenol contamination of sorghum grain. This work has provided insights into the impacts of fungal diseases on grain sorghum yield and quality in the mid-Atlantic and has aided in development of best management practices for the region.



Grain sorghum, Sorghum bicolor, anthracnose, Colletotrichum sublineola, grain mold, mycotoxins, phylogenetic analysis, Fusarium spp.