Fusarium ear rot of maize, caused by Fusarium verticillioides, is an important disease affecting maize production worldwide. Apart from reducing yield and grain quality, F. verticillioides produces fumonisins which have been associated with mycotoxicoses of animals and humans. Currently, no maize breeding lines are known with resistance to F. verticillioides in South Africa. The objective of this study, therefore, was to evaluate 24 genetically diverse maize inbred lines as potential sources of resistance to Fusarium ear rot and fumonisin accumulation in field trials at Potchefstroom and Vaalharts in South Africa. After artificial silk channel inoculation with F. verticillioides, Fusarium ear rot development was determined at harvest and fumonisins B1, B2, and B3 quantified. A significant inbred line by location effect was observed for Fusarium ear rot severity (P ≤ 0.001), although certain lines proved to be consistently resistant across both locations. The individual inbred lines also differed considerably in fumonisin accumulation between Potchefstroom and Vaalharts, with differentiation between susceptible and potentially resistant inbred lines only being possible at Vaalharts. A greenhouse inoculation trial was then also performed on a subset of potentially resistant and highly susceptible lines. The inbred lines CML 390, CML 444, CML 182, VO 617Y-2, and RO 549 W consistently showed a low Fusarium ear rot (<5%) incidence at both Potchefstroom and Vaalharts and in the greenhouse. Two of these inbred lines, CML 390 and CML 444, accumulated fumonisin levels <5 mg kg–1. These lines could potentially act as sources of resistance for use within a maize breeding program.
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