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Effect of nitrogen fertilization on Fusarium head blight in spring barley

Hofer, Katharina, Barmeier, Gero, Schmidhalter, Urs, Habler, Katharina, Rychlik, Michael, Hückelhoven, Ralph, Hess, Michael
Crop protection 2016 v.88 pp. 18-27
DNA, Fusarium avenaceum, Fusarium culmorum, Fusarium head blight, canopy, fungal diseases of plants, greenhouses, industry, malting, mycotoxins, nitrogen, plant pathogenic fungi, plant physiology, protein content, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, spring barley, wheat
Nitrogen fertilization has been shown to influence the occurrence and the impact of Fusarium head blight in wheat. It also plays a key role in adjusting barley quality to the requirements of the malting industry, implying specific contents of protein. The present study investigated the effect of nitrogen input on the incidence of relevant Fusarium species in spring barley under field and greenhouse conditions. Grain material from differently fertilized field plots was analyzed for fungal DNA and mycotoxins by qPCR and LC-MS/MS, respectively. Under natural pathogen pressure no effect of nitrogen on infection was observed. When pathogen pressure (Fusarium culmorum and Fusarium avenaceum) was increased via species-specific soil-surface inoculation, nitrogen application reduced contents of Fusarium DNA and mycotoxins in barley grain. Nitrogen-dependent canopy parameters were recorded over the season and correlated with DNA and mycotoxin data. Apparently, sparser canopy permitted more Fusarium infections in unfertilized plots. In addition, well nitrogen-fertilized plants allowed less fungal development in the barley spike after spray inoculation in the greenhouse. These results suggest that nitrogen fertilization restricts Fusarium grain infection of barley by influencing canopy characteristics and possibly plant physiology.