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Characterization and competitive ability of non-aflatoxigenic Aspergillus flavus isolated from the maize agro-ecosystem in Argentina as potential aflatoxin biocontrol agents

Alaniz Zanon, María Silvina, Clemente, María Paz, Chulze, Sofía Noemí
International journal of food microbiology 2018 v.277 pp. 58-63
Aspergillus flavus, aflatoxin B1, agroecosystems, biological control, biological control agents, competitive exclusion, corn, crops, cyclopiazonic acid, field experimentation, morphs, sclerotia, secondary infection, seeds, soil, soil sampling, toxigenic strains, Argentina
Aspergillus flavus is an opportunistic pathogen and may produce aflatoxins in maize, one of the most important crops in Argentina. A promising strategy to reduce aflatoxin accumulation is the biological control based on competitive exclusion. In order to select potential biocontrol agents among isolates from the maize growing region in Argentina, a total of 512 A. flavus strains were isolated from maize kernels and soil samples. Thirty-six per cent of the isolates from maize kernels did not produce detectable levels of aflatoxins, while 73% of the isolates from soil were characterized as non-aflatoxin producers. Forty percent and 49% of the isolates from maize kernels and soil samples, respectively, were not producers of cyclopiazonic acid (CPA). Sclerotia morphology was evaluated using Czapek Dox media. Eighty-six per cent of the isolates from maize kernels and 85% of the isolates from soil samples were L sclerotia morphotype (average diameter > 400 μm). The remaining isolates did not produce sclerotia. All isolates had MAT 1-1 idiomorph. The competitive ability of 9 non aflatoxigenic strains, 4 CPA(+) and 5 CPA(−), was evaluated in co-inoculations of maize kernels with an aflatoxigenic strain. All evaluated strains significantly (p < 0.05) reduced aflatoxin contamination in maize kernels. The aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) reduction ranged from 6 to 60%. The strain A. flavus ARG5/30 isolated from maize kernels would be a good candidate as a potential biocontrol agent to be used in maize, since it was characterized as neither aflatoxin nor CPA producer, morphotype L, MAT 1-1 idiomorph, and reduced AFB1 content in maize kernels by 59%. This study showed the competitive ability of potential aflatoxin biocontrol agents to be evaluated under field trials in a maize agro-ecosystem in Argentina.