Plant Research International, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Naturally occurring populations of Fusarium avenaceum, F. culmorum, F. graminearum, F. poae, and Microdochium nivale were studied in two field experiments from anthesis in June 2003 until harvest in crops of winter wheat, and subsequently during 10 months after harvest until June 2004 on their residues exposed on the soil surface under field conditions. The dynamics of the different pathogens were estimated by quantifying the amount of DNA present in wheat tissues using TaqMan-polymerase chain reaction. While colonization of grain by Fusarium spp. and M. nivale was low, high amounts of DNA of F. avenaceum, F. graminearum, and F. culmorum were found in ear residues, internodes, and nodes of the mature crop. Amounts of DNA of pathogens decreased significantly during the following 10 months in residues of internodes and nodes, but not in residues of stem bases. Knowledge on population dynamics of pathogens will help to develop preventive measures aimed at reduction of inoculum sources of head blight pathogens.