Fundamental study on the influence of Fusarium infection on quality and ultrastructure of barley malt

Pedro M Oliveira, Alexander Mauch, Fritz Jacob, Deborah M Waters, Elke K Arendt
International Journal of Food Microbiology 2012 May 1, 156 (1): 32-43
Barley infection with Fusarium species has been a long standing problem for the malting and brewing industries. In this study, we evaluate the impact of Fusarium culmorum infected raw barley on the final malt quality. Barley grains were infected for 5 days at optimum fungal growth conditions. Grains were fully characterized and compared to standard barley grains. Due to fungal infection, germinative energy of infected barley grains decreased by 45%; its water sensitivity increased dramatically, and grains accumulated 199 μg/kg of deoxynivalenol (DON). Barley grains were subsequently malted for 8 days, fully characterized and compared to standard malt grains. Fungal growth behavior was evaluated during malting using a PCR-based assay and mycotoxins were measured using HPLC. Fungal biomass increased in grains, during all stages of malting. Infected malt accumulated 8-times its DON concentration during malting. Kernel ultrastructure was evaluated using scanning electron and confocal laser scanning microscopy. Infected malt grains were characterized by extreme structural proteolytic, (hemi)-cellulolytic and starch deterioration with increased friability and fragmentation. Infected grains had higher protease and β-glucanase activities, lower amylase activity, a greater proportion of free amino and soluble nitrogen, and a lower β-glucan content. Malt loss was over 27% higher in infected malt in comparison to the control. The results of this study revealed that 20% F. culmorum infected barley kernels lead to a significant reduction in malt quality as well as mycotoxin formation.

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