The Roundup -

Detoxifying Fusarium Study Focus of ARS BrownBagger Mar. 10


Fusarium head blight (FHB) has proved a very costly disease since its emergence as a major threat in the 1990s. Altogether, U.S. wheat and barley farmers have lost over $3 billion due to FHB epidemics.

To address the problem, a research program looking at new ways to manage Fusarium diseases using soil microbes is underway at Montana State University’s Eastern Agricultural Research Center in Sidney under the direction of Plant Pathologist Frankie Crutcher. Dr. Crutcher will be sharing the underpinnings of that program in a special BrownBagger presentation on Friday, March 10, to be held at the neighboring USDA research facility in Sidney (the Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory) as part of its 2017 BrownBagger series.

Dr. Crutcher’s presentation is entitled “Detoxification of fusaric acid, a Fusarium secondary metabolite, by soil-borne microorganisms,” and will focus on her earlier Fusarium research in cotton, which is pointing the way for new disease management options in small grains as well. Her talk will be held Friday from Noon to 1 pm at the USDA Northern Plains lab, at 1500 N. Central Ave. in Sidney.

In her presentation, Crutcher will discuss how soil microbes provide a potential tool for managing or mitigating Fusarium. In her previous research, she looked at the ability of soil microorganisms to detoxify fusaric acids (FA) produced by several species of Fusarium. Fusaric acid plays a role in disease development in cotton.

According to Crutcher, this non-specific toxin also has deleterious effects on microorganisms, providing for a potential pool of unique detoxification methods as those microorganisms rapidly evolve to address the threat. “Fungi from soil infested with Fusarium and from laboratory sources were evaluated for their ability to grow in the presence of FA and alter its structure into less toxic compounds,” Crutcher said. “Several previously unidentified detoxification products were produced by these fungi, regardless of where they were isolated and the resistance level of the microorganism to fusaric acid.”

In her presentation, Crutcher will focus on two specific mechanisms of resistance employed by the microorganisms she studied: 1) the identification and production of the detoxification product fusarinol and 2) a transporter from F. oxysporum f.sp. vasinfectum that provides self-resistance to fusaric acid by removing and isolating the toxin from the plant cell.

“Molecular analysis of key biochemical processes such as these used in the detoxification of FA could lead to future host plant resistance to Fusarium pathogens, she noted, adding that her work in cotton is forming the basis for projects at EARC, including one involving DON (vomitoxin) contamination of small grains by Fusarium head blight.

Please join us Friday, March 10, to learn more about Dr. Crutcher’s research and the fascinating role soil-dwelling microorganisms can play in combatting plant disease. Bring your lunch; we’ll provide dessert!

And note, too, that following Crutcher, NPARL’s next BrownBagger set for Friday, Mar. 24, will feature NRCS District Conservationist Ann Fischer at Baker, MT discussing “Bale grazing.”

For questions or more information on the Sidney ARS 2017 Brownbagger Series, contact Beth Redlin at 406-433-9427 or [email protected].


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