Determining the effect of cover cropping legacy on mycotoxin accumulation and fusarium disease in maize

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2021: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Pennsylvania State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Gretchen Kuldau
The Pennsylvania State University


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Crop Production: cover crops

    Proposal abstract:

    Fusarium (caused by Fusarium verticillioides) and Gibberella (caused by Fusarium graminearum) ear and stalk rot are economically and toxicologically important diseases of maize in the Northeast causing ear rot, stalk rot and seedling blight. While Fusarium infection can reduce maize yield, the mycotoxins produced by these pathogens are of greatest concern and pose a threat to human and animal health upon ingestion. Management options are limited, and many farmers rely on genetic resistance through the use of transgenic Bt maize, which reduces insect damage and wounding, where Fusarium infection can occur. This management option is however inaccessible to organic operations, and producers and increasing evidence of pest resistance to Bt-maize is reducing its efficacy in conventional operations as well. Therefore, new management strategies must be developed which are sustainable, affordable, and can be implemented by organic operations producers, as well as in conventional production systems. One agronomic practice that has been identified to influence F. verticillioides disease severity is cover cropping. Cover crops are known to modify nutrient cycling and biological activity in the soil. These soil modifications are known to influence weed growth, insect pest pressure, and below ground pathogens, however there is minimal knowledge regarding how these systems influence above ground fungal pathogens. The purpose of this research is to identify the effect of various cover crop species legacies on stalk and ear rot severity and mycotoxin contamination by F. graminearum and F. verticillioides infection. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: To Identify the effect of cover cropping legacy on mycotoxin accumulation and disease severity in maize during Fusarium and Gibberella stalk and ear rot.

    Specific objectives are to:

    a. Assess the effect of cover crop legacy on disease severity (lesion size) of maize due to Gibberella (F. graminearum) and Fusarium (F.           verticillioides) stalk rot.

    b. Assess the effect of cover crop legacy on the DON contamination of ears of maize due to Gibberella ear rot disease (F. graminearum).

    c. Assess the effect of cover crop legacy on the Fumonisin B1 and Fumonisin B2 contamination of ears of maize due to Fusarium ear rot disease (F. verticillioides)

    Objective 2: To identify the interaction between cover cropping legacy, mycorrhizal colonization, and ear rot disease in maize.





    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.