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Atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus: A hidden mechanism of biocontrol
Lourena Arone: University of Arizona; Peter Cotty: USDA-ARS, University of Arizona
<div>Aflatoxins are potent mycotoxins produced by several <i>Aspergillus</i> species. These toxins contaminate foods and feeds worldwide impacting health and trade. Research on managing aflatoxin contamination has focused on breeding, agronomic practices, and biocontrol. Biocontrol with atoxigenic genotypes of <i>A. flavus</i> may result in aflatoxin reductions of over 90%. Applications change the structure of <i>Aspergillus</i> communities so that aflatoxin producers are less common and atoxigenics dominate. In co-infected crop components, contamination is reduced both through competitive exclusion and a second, minor, undefined mechanism. To improve understanding of mechanisms through which atoxigenic <i>A. flavus</i> reduce aflatoxins, degradation of aflatoxins by atoxigenic strains of <i>Aspergillus flavus</i> was evaluated. Two commercial biocontrol agents (Aflaguard and AF36) and one biocontrol candidate MZM221-5 were inoculated onto both maize and liquid media containing aflatoxins. The three atoxigenic <i>A. flavus</i> genotypes degraded aflatoxins over the 4 week period. The current study reports for the first time the ability of atoxigenic genotypes of <i>A. flavus</i> currently used in biocontrol products to degrade aflatoxins in maize. Although all the evaluated atoxigenic genotypes degraded aflatoxin B<sub>1, </sub>there was variation<sub> </sub>among the genotypes in the speed of degradation. Optimal selection of atoxigenic biocontrol agents may include assessment of both competitively ability and ability to degrade aflatoxins.</div>

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