Impact of fungal contamination of wheat on grain quality criteria

Marcus Schmidt, Stefan Horstmann, Lorenzo De Colli, Martin Danaher, Karl Speer, Emanuele Zannini, Elke K. Arendt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to investigate the spread of minimal, field born Fusarium infections in wheat during storage and the resulting impact on grain quality. Therefore, Fusarium culmorum was chosen as the representative strain. Wheat grains were artificially infected and stored for 6 weeks in a model system. To estimate the fungal growth, the ergosterol content was determined as this correlates with the fungal biomass. Ergosterol levels revealed a rapid spread of the infection during storage conditions. Furthermore, analysis of nine mycotoxins showed that Deoxynivalenol and Zearalenone occurred in concentrations exceeding the maximum residue limits. Scanning electron microscopy illustrated the penetration of the fungus into the endosperm and showed the degradation of important seed constituents, such as starch and storage proteins. This is mainly due to the increased activity of proteases and amylases by the fungal metabolism. The results of this study show how small levels of field contamination can easily spread during storage and so lead to significant losses in grain quality and present a potential consumer health hazard. Thus, it demonstrates the need to develop efficient methods for crop protection during storage, without compromising the quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-103
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cereal Science
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for Marcus Schmidt was received through the Irish Government under the National Development Plan 2007–2013 through the research program FIRM/RSF/CoFoRD under the project number 11/F/479 . This research was also partly funded by Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Fusarium culmorum
  • Mycotoxins
  • Storage
  • Wheat quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Biochemistry


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