Cereal Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 195 Dafoe Road, Winnipeg, MB, R3T 2M9.
Fusarium head blight (FHB) is one of the most important cereal diseases in the world and has caused major losses to the grain industry. The principal pathogen causing FHB in North America is Gibberella zeae (anamorph Fusarium graminearum). Information on survival and the conditions under which ascospores remain viable once released from perithecia may assist in refining disease forecasting models. This study measured germination of ascospores after exposure to different temperatures, 15, 20, and 30°C, and levels of relative humidity (RH), 30, 60, and 90% for 4, 24, or 48 h periods. Viability was tested by germination on water agar. Germination rates fell with increasing temperatures at all observation times and at all humidity levels. At 15 and 20°C after 48 h, germination ranged from 74 to 85%, and 52 to 72%, respectively. At 30°C, germination ranged from 36 to 59% after 24 h and from 13 to 47% after 48 h. Germination was highest at 90% RH, except at 30°C after 48 h, and lowest at 60% RH. Successful germination, even under extreme conditions, suggests that ascospores are sufficiently robust to constitute a source of inoculum under most environmental conditions encountered during the growing season.