The pathogenic fungus Fusarium threatens the integrity of corn crops in the form of blights and by producing mycotoxins, which can affect human and animal health if they enter the food chain. Efforts to control its spread are complicated because the fungus often resides in seeds; however, biological control microorganisms offer a promising organic alternative to chemical seed treatments.
In the Fall of 2013, OFRF awarded Lucas Nebert, a PhD candidate at the University of Oregon, a $13,000 grant to explore the use of indigenous seed-inhabiting microorganisms as biological control agents against Fusarium in corn. With field research completed in 2014, Nebert spent most of 2015 processing the seed and plant samples for DNA-based pathogen detection and next-generation DNA sequencing. He submitted his final report to OFRF in January.