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​​​Demystifying Mechanisms of Biological Controls and Mycotoxins: Translating Fundamental Discoveries into Next Generation Postharvest Decay/Mycotoxin Abatement Strategies​​​​

Broadcast Date: May 25, 2023

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​​​Webinar Summary​

Mycotoxins negatively impact human health, reduce the quality of processed agricultural products, and are problematic for stored fruits, grains, nuts, and vegetables. Their presence has become increasingly pronounced with global climate change and mycotoxin-producing fungi that infect crops before, during, and after harvest. Storage facilities create an artificially controlled, ecological microcosm consisting of biotic and abiotic variables that provide unique opportunities to implement mycotoxin mitigation strategies. Pre- and postharvest approaches aimed at controlling mycotoxin-producing fungi and concomitant mycotoxin contamination/detoxification techniques have been explored. However, gaps remain concerning fundamental mechanisms of biological controls, interkingdom microbial signaling, and their translation into practical mycotoxin abatement and mitigation strategies. Thus, the proposed session will highlight new studies concerning mechanisms of biological control agents, the multi-functional role of these toxins, and conceptual applications of this knowledge to produce the next generation of postharvest fungal and mycotoxin abatement tools and tactics.

Learning Objectives

  • Increased knowledge of biological control mechanisms and the roles of mycotoxins in different pathosystems. 
  • Understand how this information has and can be translated into new tools and tactics to mitigate decay and toxin production.
  • Be aware of the newest applications of biotechnology and plant engineering to solve mycotoxin contamination in agronomics and tree fruit. 
  • Understanding of the microcosms that exist in a variety of stored crops.  


Lourena Arone Maxwell

Lourena Arone Maxwell holds a PhD and a Master’s degree in Plant Pathology from the University of Arizona, USA, and a bachelor’s degree in Agronomic Engineering from Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), Mozambique. Lourena has served at UEM as a university lecturer of plant pathology, agricultural microbiology, and integrated pest management. She has experience in managing and implementing research and projects that support plant health for food security. This includes coordinating the first plant clinics in Mozambique (collaboration with CABI), characterization of rice blast and bacterial blight pathogens in East and South Africa (collaboration with IRRI), and biocontrol of aflatoxins in Mozambique (collaboration with USDA and IITA). Lourena is an active member and volunteer at the American Phytopathological Society (APS). She was the 2018 Graduate Student Committee Chair, and she serves on the steering committee of the African Phytopathology group. She joined WorldVeg in 2021 as a postdoctoral scientist researching biocontrol of vegetable diseases and promoting environmentally friendly sustainable plant health approaches.

Tim Satterlee

Dr. Tim Satterlee was born and raised in Illinois where I went to Northern Illinois University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. For graduate school he worked in the research of lab of Dr. Ana Calvo. The research during his PhD focused on studying the fungal genetics of morphological development and secondary metabolism in multiple Aspergillus spp.. After graduating in 2019, Tim worked as postdoc in Dr. Scott Gold’s lab with the USDA in Athens, Georgia with the Toxicology and Mycotoxins Research Unit. His work has been focused on studying the interactions of maize associated microbes with a focus on mycotoxigenic fungi and microbes that could have potential use as biocontrol agents against them. After fully joining the USDA as a microbiologist, he continue to develop my research from my postdoc into a full career of understanding how secondary metabolites influence relationships between fungi and use that knowledge to mitigate mycotoxins and fungi that produce them.

Dr. Monica Schmidt
School of Plant Sciences

Dr. Monica Schmidt is an Associate Professor in the School of Plant Sciences and a member of the Bio5 Institute. She has been involved with plant biotechnology and functional genomics for her entire career. She has a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia and did postdoctoral research at both the University of Georgia and the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center before becoming faculty at the University of Arizona. She works on applied biotechnology to enhance global food security. Among her notable accomplishments are the development of protocols to enhance the transformation of soybean that has been widely adopted by industry and academia. Dr. Schmidt has produced key nutraceutical b-carotene in both soybean and camelina seeds at record levels so that only a few seeds would be the equivalent of an adult human RDA. Dr. Schmidt has produced maize plants that act to silence the production of aflatoxin in infested maize that provides a potential means to mitigate the presence of this potent aflatoxin in food and feed. 

Dr. Rebecca Sweany
USDA in the Food and Feed Safety Research Unit

Dr. Rebecca Sweany is a plant and fungal research geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Food and Feed Safety Research Unit at the Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She joined the unit in 2019 as a plant pathology post-doctoral researcher.  Rebecca earned a Master’s and Doctoral degree from Louisiana State University’s Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology.
Rebecca Sweany’s research focuses on Aspergillus flavus and aflatoxin contamination of corn.  She investigates the mechanisms of non-aflatoxigenic A. flavus biocontrol isolates to reduce aflatoxin contamination.  Rebecca’s research also investigates pathogenicity of A. flavus.   Recently Sweany started using transgenic approaches to incorporate fungal resistance in corn.