Influence of agronomic and climatic factors on Fusarium infestation and mycotoxin contamination of cereals in Norway

A Bernhoft, M Torp, P-E Clasen, A-K Løes, A B Kristoffersen
Food Additives & Contaminants. Part A, Chemistry, Analysis, Control, Exposure & Risk Assessment 2012, 29 (7): 1129-40
A total of 602 samples of organically and conventionally grown barley, oats and wheat was collected at grain harvest during 2002-2004 in Norway. Organic and conventional samples were comparable pairs regarding cereal species, growing site and harvest time, and were analysed for Fusarium mould and mycotoxins. Agronomic and climatic factors explained 10-30% of the variation in Fusarium species and mycotoxins. Significantly lower Fusarium infestation and concentrations of important mycotoxins were found in the organic cereals. The mycotoxins deoxynivalenol (DON) and HT-2 toxin (HT-2) constitute the main risk for human and animal health in Norwegian cereals. The impacts of various agronomic and climatic factors on DON and HT-2 as well as on their main producers F. graminearum and F. langsethiae and on total Fusarium were tested by multivariate statistics. Crop rotation with non-cereals was found to reduce all investigated characteristics significantly--mycotoxin concentrations as well as various Fusarium infestations. No use of mineral fertilisers and herbicides was also found to decrease F. graminearum, whereas lodged fields increased the occurrence of this species. No use of herbicides was also found to decrease F. langsethiae, but for this species the occurrence was lower in lodged fields. Total Fusarium infestation was decreased with no use of fungicides or mineral fertilisers, and with crop rotation, as well as by using herbicides and increased by lodged fields. Clay and to some extent silty soils seemed to reduce F. graminearum in comparison with sandy soils. Concerning climate factors, low temperature before grain harvest was found to increase DON; and high air humidity before harvest to increase HT-2. F. graminearum was negatively correlated with precipitation in July but correlated with air humidity before harvest. F. langsethiae was correlated with temperature in July. Total Fusarium increased with increasing precipitation in July. Organic cereal farmers have fewer cereal intense rotations than conventional farmers. Further, organic farmers do not apply mineral fertiliser or pesticides (fungicides, herbicides or insecticides), and have less problem with lodged fields. The study showed that these agronomic factors were related to the infestation of Fusarium species and the concentration of mycotoxins. Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that farming system (organic versus conventional) impacts Fusarium infestation, and that organic management tends to reduce Fusarium and mycotoxins. However, Fusarium infestation and mycotoxin concentrations may be influenced by a range of factors not studied here, such as local topography and more local climate, as well as cereal species and variety.

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