The prevalence and impact of Fusarium head blight pathogens and mycotoxins on malting barley quality in UK

L K Nielsen, D J Cook, S G Edwards, R V Ray
International Journal of Food Microbiology 2014 June 2, 179: 38-49
Fusarium head blight (FHB) caused by Fusarium and Microdochium species can significantly affect the yield of barley grain as well as the quality and safety of malt and beer. The present study provides new knowledge on the impacts of the FHB pathogen complex on the malting and brewing quality parameters of naturally infected barley. Quantitative real-time PCR and liquid chromatography double mass spectrometry were used to quantify the predominant FHB pathogens and Fusarium mycotoxins, respectively, in commercially grown UK malting barley samples collected between 2007 and 2011. The predominant Fusarium species identified across the years were F. poae, F. tricinctum and F. avenaceum. Microdochium majus was the predominant Microdochium species in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011 whilst Microdochium nivale predominated in 2009. Deoxynivalenol and zearalenone quantified in samples collected between 2007 and 2009 were associated with F. graminearum and F. culmorum, whilst HT-2 and T-2, and nivalenol in samples collected between 2010 and 2011 correlated positively with F. langsethiae and F. poae, respectively. Analysis of the regional distribution and yearly variation in samples from 2010 to 2011 showed significant differences in the composition of the FHB species complex. In most regions (Scotland, the South and North of England) the harvest in 2010 had higher concentrations of Fusarium spp. than in 2011, although no significant difference was observed in the Midlands between the two years. Microdochium DNA was significantly higher in 2011 and in the North of England and Scotland compared to the South or Midlands regions. Pathogens of the FHB complex impacted negatively on grain yield and quality parameters. Thousand grain weight of malting barley was affected significantly by M. nivale and M. majus whilst specific weight correlated negatively with F. avenaceum and F. graminearum. To determine the impact of sub-acute infections of the identified Fusarium and Microdochium species on malting and brewing quality of naturally infected samples, selected malting barley cultivars (Optic, Quench and Tipple) were micromalted and subjected to malt and wort analysis of key quality parameters. F. poae and M. nivale decreased germinative energy and increased water sensitivity of barley. The fungal biomass of F. poae and F. langsethiae correlated with increased wort free amino nitrogen and with decreased extract of malt. DNA of M. nivale correlated with increased malt friability as well as decreased wort filtration volume. The findings of this study indicate that the impact of species such as the newly emerging F. langsethiae, as well as F. poae and the two non-toxigenic Microdochium species should be considered when evaluating the quality of malting barley.

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