Background (completed research project)
Not all cereals are alike. Certain varieties of wheat, oats and barley contain elevated levels of health promoting compounds that when consumed contribute to a balanced diet. The cultivation of these high-quality cereals is therefore promoted. A further benefit of these cereal varieties is that they are less frequently affected by Fusarium fungi which produce harmful toxins (mycotoxins). Recently, however, more Fusarium species are being found for which the factors that influence infestation are unknown.
The primary aim of the project is to reduce the risk of mycotoxin contamination by means of new varieties of wheat, oats and barley that contain increased levels of health-promoting substances. To accomplish this, the project will first examine the spectrum of Fusarium species present in cereals and analyse the underlying environmental and agricultural factors. Subsequently, an epidemiological investigation of the most frequent species found in oats and barley will be conducted. The project will then verify the Fusarium resistance of a range of varieties, and will research the roles of health-promoting compounds as potential resistance factors. The results provide a basis for the development of new cropping strategies and for breeding of more resistant varieties with which mycotoxin contamination can be avoided. Moreover, the existing forecasting system www.fusaprog.ch will be expanded to include the cultivation of oats and barley. The findings of the project will be disseminated together with representatives of the cereals and food sectors, and use of the new varieties will be promoted in agriculture and among consumers.
The project will aid understanding of the Fusarium problem and interactions between health-promoting compounds and Fusarium fungi. It will also provide data to be used in setting toxin thresholds. Varieties that are more resistant to Fusarium fungi will support the cultivation of health and safe cereals, and help secure the competitiveness of Swiss food production.
Are healthy cereals safe cereals? – Ensuring the resistance of small grain cereals to Fusarium diseases