Research shows ergot alkaloids can move from infected to ‘clean’ grain

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Written by Charlotte Cunningham

New research has shown that ergot alkaloids can move within cereal ears to otherwise ‘clean’ grain. CPM reports. Recent findings from AHDB have demonstrated that alkaloids can move within cereal ears to otherwise ‘clean’ grain and also that grain can become contaminated with the mycotoxin after harvest – particularly through contact with broken ergot sclerotia. The European Commission (EC) is reviewing the legal limits for sclerotia found in cereal grain and, for the first time, may impose a threshold for total ergot alkaloids. The research findings will feed into the review process, help identify management solutions and prepare the entire supply chain for change. Route to contamination The fungus Claviceps purpurea infects cereals during flowering and produces ergot sclerotia in place of grain. These structures contain ergot alkaloids that are highly toxic to humans and animals. It was known that ergot alkaloids can be detected in grain that appears clear of ergot infection, however, AHDB commissioned the study to investigate the route(s) the toxin takes to contaminate clean grain. As there is limited evidence to suggest that the fungus can grow past the base of the ovary, the researchers looked at whether the alkaloids can move between flowers. A single…
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