Ingerd Skow Hofgaard
Over the recent decades, the Norwegian cereal industry has had major practical and financial challenges associated with the occurrence of Fusarium and mycotoxins in cereal grains. From 2011, payment reductions to farmers were implemented for oat grain lots with high levels of deoxynivalenol (DON). However, according to preliminary results by Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and the Norwegian plant breeding company, Graminor, certain oat varieties with generally medium or low DON contamination, may contain high levels of HT-2 and T-2-toxins (HT2+T2). These mycotoxins, formed by Fusarium langsethiae, are considerably more toxic than DON. The concentrations of HT2+T2 in Norwegian cereals were extraordinarily high in 2014, a year with growth conditions favouring development of HT2+T2. This coincided with a doubling of the market share for Odal, a variety ranked as especially prone to HT2+T2 in preliminary studies, but among the most resistant for F. graminearum and DON. Resistance to F. langsethiae is not included in the variety screening. SafeOats will develop resistance screening methods in collaboration with the main Norwegian and Swedish breeding companies, thus facilitating the phase-out of susceptible germplasm. The project will approach breeding by revealing gene expression pathways for Fusarium resistance in oats. Furthermore, SafeOats will provide information whether there are varietal differences concerning the content of mycotoxins in different size fractions of oat grains, and whether seed borne inoculum might be a source of F. langsethiae infections. SafeOats will give new insight into the biology of F. langsethiae and HT2+T2 accumulation in oats, and thus facilitate the choice of relevant control measures. The results from SafeOats will benefit consumers nationally and internationally by providing tools to increase the share of high quality grain into the food and feed industry.