Soil in corn plots was inoculated with nonaflatoxigenic strains of Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus during crop years 1994 to 1997 to determine the effect of application of the nontoxigenic strains on preharvest aflatoxin contamination of corn. Corn plots in a separate part of the field were not inoculated and served as controls. Inoculation resulted in significant increases in the total A. flavus/parasiticus soil population in treated plots, and that population was dominated by the applied strain of A. parasiticus (NRRL 21369). In the years when weather conditions favored aflatoxin contamination (1996 and 1997), corn was predominately colonized by A. flavus as opposed to A. parasiticus. In 1996, colonization by wild-type A. flavus was significantly reduced in treated plots compared with control plots, but total A. flavus/parasiticus colonization was not different between the two groups. A change to a more aggressive strain of A. flavus (NRRL 21882) as part of the biocontrol inoculum in 1997 resulted in a significantly (P < 0.001) higher colonization of corn by the applied strain. Weather conditions did not favor aflatoxin contamination in 1994 and 1995. In 1996, the aflatoxin concentration in corn from treated plots averaged 24.0 ppb, a reduction of 87% compared with the aflatoxin in control plots that averaged 188.4 ppb. In 1997, aflatoxin was reduced by 66% in treated corn (29.8 ppb) compared with control corn (87.5 ppb). Together, the data indicated that although the applied strain of A. parasiticus dominated in the soil, the nonaflatoxigenic strains of A. flavus were more responsible for the observed reductions in aflatoxin contamination. Inclusion of a nonaflatoxigenic strain of A. parasiticus in a biological control formulation for aflatoxin contamination may not be as important for airborne crops, such as corn, as for soilborne crops, such as peanuts.

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