First and second authors: The University of Arizona, Division of Plant Pathology & Microbiology, Tucson 85721; and second author: U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, Tucson, AZ 85721
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Accepted for publication 31 January 2006.
Aspergillus flavus, the causal agent of aflatoxin contamination of cottonseed, is a natural inhabitant of soils. A. flavus can be divided into the S and L strains, of which the S-strain isolates, on average, produce greater quantities of aflatoxins than the L-strain isolates. Aflatoxin contamination can be severe in several crops in South Texas. The structure of A. flavus communities residing in soils of South Texas was determined from 326 soil samples collected from 152 fields located from the Rio Grande Valley in the south to Fort Bend County in the north from 2001 through 2003. Analysis of variance indicated significant differences in the incidence of A. flavus isolates belonging to the S strain (percent S) among regions. The Coastal Bend (30.7%) and Upper Coast (25.5%) regions had significantly higher percent S incidence than the Rio Grande Valley (4.8%). No significant differences in percent S among years were detected. The CFU per gram of soil were not significantly different among regions. Strain S incidence was positively correlated with clay content and negatively correlated with sand content. Fields cropped to cotton the previous year had a higher S-strain incidence, whereas fields cropped to corn had greater total quantities of A. flavus propagules. Maps of S-strain patterns show that the S strain constitutes >30% of the overall A. flavus community in the area extending from the central Coastal Bend region to the central Upper Coast region. The west Rio Grande Valley had the lowest S-strain incidence (<10%). Geographic variation in S-strain incidence may influence the distribution of aflatoxin contamination in South Texas.
The American Phytopathological Society, 2006