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Aflatoxin in maize: a review of the early literature from “moldy-corn toxicosis” to the genetics of aflatoxin accumulation resistance

  • J. Spencer SmithEmail author
  • W. Paul Williams
  • Gary L. Windham
Review
  • 16 Downloads

Abstract

Aflatoxin is a potent toxin produced by Aspergillus flavus Link:Fr, an opportunistic ear-rot pathogen of maize (Zea mays L. subsp. Mays). Prior to the discovery of aflatoxin, A. flavus was considered a minor pathogen and was not a priority for maize breeders or pathologists. Aflatoxin was discovered in England in 1961 following an epidemic in poultry. By the early 1970s, surveys of agricultural commodities in the USA found that maize produced in the Southeast was especially vulnerable to aflatoxin contamination. Aflatoxin contamination was initially treated as a post-harvest issue, but pre-harvest contamination was proven by 1975. Pre-harvest contamination meant that genetically based host-plant resistance was a possible solution. The potential magnitude of the problem became apparent in 1977 when the southeastern US maize crop suffered epidemic aflatoxin contamination. The first experiment demonstrating the heritability of host-plant resistance to aflatoxin accumulation was published in 1978. These events combined to make breeding for reduced aflatoxin contamination both a high priority and a rational breeding objective. This review surveys the early scientific literature in order to place research on the genetics of aflatoxin accumulation in maize into historical context. It tells the story of how multi-disciplinary research began with veterinary diseases of unknown etiology and resulted in host-plant resistance to a previously minor plant pathogen becoming a central public sector breeding objective.

Keywords

Maize Aflatoxin Host-plant resistance Mycotoxins 

Notes

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

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© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA-ARS, Corn Host Plant Resistance Research UnitMississippiUSA

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