Chemical genomics to combat Fusarium and mitigate DON production in Fusarium graminearum

Principal Investigator

Rajagopal Subramaniam

Research Institution

Ottawa Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

External Funding Partners

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada, through Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program (AIP) – Industry-led Research and Development Stream

Project Start

January 2014

Project End

March 2018


  • Determine the efficacy of bio-fungicide compounds to combat Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) with respect to application timing, dosage of bio-fungicide compounds and Fusarium graminearum strains with different chemotypes (3-ADON, 15-ADON and NIV).
  • Identify bio-fungicide compounds that mitigate deoxynivalenol (DON) production


  • The identification of environmentally friendly bio-pesticides that mitigate Fusarium growth and DON production.
  • The identification of biochemical pathways involved in fungal growth and mycotoxin production.
  • The identification of synthetic bio-fungicide cocktails that provide Canadian farmers with novel strategies to combat current and emerging diseases.

Scientific Summary

Fusarium graminearum is an economically significant pathogen of cereal crops, such as wheat, barley, maize, oats and rye, that causes Fusarium head blight (FHB) disease. FHB is also accompanied by the accumulation of various mycotoxins that represent a serious health issue when present at high concentrations. Although fungicide treatments and improved agronomic practices can help to reduce the Fusarium problem in low to moderate infection years, epidemic prevention requires an integrated management approach. In Canada, there are only few active ingredients registered to suppress F. graminearum as a foliar or seed treatment in cereals.

Chemical genetics can be used to develop and deploy new bio-pesticides that are both environmentally friendly and more importantly, specific to the pathogen to be controlled. Chemical genetics is based on the ability of small chemical compounds to bind to biological molecules and alter its function. We developed a high throughput screening strategy and have identified eight families of compounds that mitigated Fusarium growth and interfered with DON production. One compound Antofine, isolated from a plant species Vincetoxicum rossicum, showed in greenhouse studies approximately a 40% reduction in FHB symptoms on wheat heads when sprayed with Antofine prior to Fusarium infection. By using yeast as a model organism, we have also identified six target genes of Antofine in Fusarium. Since these genes are responsible for fungal growth, it will enable us to develop a designer cocktail suitable to combat FHB and other fungal-caused diseases and reduce mycotoxin contamination.