Submitted to: Mycotoxin Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 5, 2006
Publication Date: November 1, 2006
Citation: Cotty, P.J., Mellon, J.E. 2006. Ecology of aflatoxin producing fungi and biocontrol of aflatoxin contamination. Mycotoxin Research. 22(2):110-117. Interpretive Summary: Aflatoxins are toxic fungal metabolites that can inhibit human development, cause cancer, and even induce death. For over three decades, people have tried to develop methods for limiting aflatoxin contamination of crops. Knowledge of the ecology of the fungi that produce aflatoxins has led to improved methods for management. These methods include cultural practices such as changing harvest date and crop rotations, improved handling and processing, and biological control. Development of novel biological control strategies evolved directly from ecological studies of the fungi that produce aflatoxins. Biocontrol offers the greatest hope for reducing contamination both throughout agricultural areas and to all crops grown in those areas.
Technical Abstract: Aflatoxins, highly toxic and carcinogenic compounds that frequently contaminate foods and feeds, are produced by several genera in the genus Aspergillus. Aspergillus flavus, the most common species causing crop contamination, is a common inhabitant of the Sonoran desert where it resides in complex communities composed of diverse individuals. This diversity reflects divergent adaptation to various ecological niches. Some A. flavus isolates that are well adapted to plant associated niches do not produce aflatoxins, yet have the capacity to competitively exclude aflatoxin producers. These atoxigenic strains can serve as biological control agents for management of aflatoxins in crop. Detailed knowledge of the ecology of aflatoxin-producing fungi may lead to novel practical methods for limiting contamination.