Researchers to develop mycotoxin resistance in oats

Oat growers are set to benefit from two research projects tackling two important mycotoxins, which may lead to high yielding varieties with good resistance.

HT2 and T2 mycotoxins can be detected in oat grains following infection with Fusarium langsethiae.

At high levels, these potent type A trichothecene mycotoxins ring alarm bells in the supply chain, warns AHDB’s Dhan Bhandari.

See also: How colour-coding can help manage wheat mycotoxin risk

“To mitigate against public health concerns, the European Commission has published a recommendation with indicative levels of HT2 and T2 in cereals and cereal products for human consumption. It expects member states to be diligent and invest in relevant research.”

AHDB has for some years funded monitoring work on contaminants in oats and other cereals, using representative commercial samples to survey the incidence and levels of various contaminants including HT2 and T2.

This sits alongside Defra’s surveys, with samples coming from the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), Maltsters Association of Great Britain (MAGB) and Nabim.

New project

So far, the project has monitored oats solely for animal feed, but a new project starting this August will include oats for human consumption, says Dr Bhandari.

He hopes the results will reassure the supply chain. The results are also forwarded to the European Food Standards Authority to inform decision making on legislation.

“We know from our previous surveys that between 2002 and 2008, 16% of oat samples on average exceeded the indicative limit set in 2013 of 1,000ppb of HT2+T2 for unprocessed oats. Since then, levels have occasionally reached up to 30%.”

Timetable for BPS rollout

  • Testing for contaminants in representative samples of UK-grown cereals and co-products to ensure compliance limits met
  • Monitoring current and emerging legislation and contaminant issues that impact on safety and marketability of cereal-based foods
  • Comparative fusarium resistance of UK Recommended List oat varieties available for when legislation is introduced
  • Finding genes responsible for resistance to Fusarium langsethiae to reduce HT2 and T2 contamination risk in oats

Meanwhile, another new project will shed light on the F langsethiae-oat interaction and the genes responsible for resistance to the disease, to aid the development of control strategies to minimise HT2 and T2 contamination.

An earlier study of UK oat varieties identified large differences in the susceptibility of oats to infection, says Simon Edwards of Harper Adams University.

“In a previous AHDB studentship, the role of morphological traits such as height and agronomic factors including sowing date were investigated.

“Studies included winter versus spring, tall versus dwarf varieties and naked versus husked varieties.”

Generally, winter, dwarf and naked oats are more susceptible, although as most of the mycotoxins are present on the husk, naked oats have lower levels after harvest, he explains.

Progress has been hampered by the inability to artificially inoculate oats with F langsethiae.

The new PhD project aims to develop an effective glasshouse inoculation method for infection using varieties identified with high susceptibility, and identify resistance to fusarium using selected mapping populations and near-isogenic lines.

“The aim is to help plant breeders in marker assisted selection of new oat varieties with enhanced and stable expression of traits associated with resistance to fusarium.

“Ultimately, we need a high-yielding winter oat with good resistance,” says Prof Edwards.

Meanwhile, growers should continue growing oats as they do now, but be aware that some contracts for naked oats already have HT2 and T2 trade limits, he concludes.

Project 1 – Research reasons

This project, surveying the incidence and levels of key grain and milling co-product contaminants, is helping to assure our raw materials are safe for human and animal consumption and alerting the industry to issues and legislative changes

Project: Monitoring of mycotoxins and other contaminants in UK cereals used in malting, milling and animal feed

Timescale: August 2012 – August 2016

Researchers involved: Campden BRI

Funders: AHDB and in-kind from AIC, MAGB and Nabim

Cost: £636,533 

Project 2 – Research reasons

This work should ultimately help plant breeders in marker-assisted selection of new oat varieties with enhanced, robust resistance to fusarium

Project: Identification of fusarium resistance within UK oat breeding lines

Timescale: October 2015 – October 2021

Researchers involved: HAU and IBER at Aberystwyth University

Funders: AHDB, Perry Foundation and Felix Cobbold Trust 

Cost: £20,000 from AHDB of total £62,000

AHDB perspective by Dhan BhandariDhan Bhandari

Research and knowledge transfer manager

“Our contaminants monitoring project is giving us useful background to the incidence and levels of, among other things, mycotoxins.

“Although indicative levels for HT2 and T2 have been set, managing the causal agent, Fusarium langsethiae, is problematic.

“The disease is symptomless and oat susceptibility is poorly understood. We know that genetic resistance is a key component in the defence against infection, so we are identifying the genes to help plant breeders deliver oat varieties better able to withstand attack from the disease.”

Need a contractor?

Find one now