The effect of Busseola fusca infestation, fungal inoculation and mechanical wounding on Fusarium ear rot development and fumonisin production in maize
Flett, Bradley C.
Van den Berg, Johnnie
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Fusarium verticillioides and Busseola fusca are among the most significant biotic constraints to maize production in South Africa. In this study, the effect of B. fusca damage and mechanical wounding to maize ears on Fusarium ear rot development and fumonisin production was investigated. The effect of the interaction on Fusarium ear rot and B. fusca damage was studied by inoculating maize ears with F. verticillioides isolate MRC826 and infesting plant whorls with aliquots of 10–15 neonate larvae at the 12th leaf stage prior to tasselling. To simulate hail damage, maize ears were mechanically wounded at the blister stage with cork borers of different sizes and number of wounds, with and without F. verticillioides inoculation. Uninoculated, uninfested and undamaged control treatments were included. Field trials were conducted over three seasons using a randomised complete block design with six replicates per treatment. In all seasons, most Fusarium ear rot developed on ears inoculated with F. verticillioides. This study indicated that B. fusca infestation was not associated with higher Fusarium ear rot incidence in two of the three seasons. Moreover, B. fusca infestation was not associated with high fumonisin production in any season. This indicates that the presence of B. fusca was not highly associated with Fusarium ear rot or fumonisin production, possibly due to its characteristic feeding nature that causes sporadic wounds on maize ears, but also the strong impact of weather variability. Fusarium ear rot development and fumonisin production by F. verticillioides inoculum varied seasonally indicating the importance of environmental conditions on Fusarium ear rot and fumonisin production. Fusarium ear rot and fumonisin production significantly increased with the severity of cork borer wounding in both naturally infected and artificially inoculated maize ears. Therefore, the prevention of severe injuries to kernels, whether by mechanical damage or insects, should be considered as important in reducing Fusarium ear rot and fumonisin production in maize