In an effort to control aflatoxin contamination in food and/or feed grains, a segment of research has focused on host resistance to eliminate aflatoxin from susceptible crops, including maize. To this end, screening tools are key to identifying resistant maize genotypes. The traditional field screening techniques, the kernel screening laboratory assay (KSA), and analytical methods (e.g., ELISA) used for evaluating corn lines for resistance to fungal invasion, all ultimately require sample destruction. A technological advancement on the basic BGYF presumptive screening test, fluorescence hyperspectral imaging offers an option for non-destructive and rapid image-based screening. The present study aimed to differentiate fluorescence spectral signatures of representative resistant and susceptible corn hybrids infected by a toxigenic (SRRC-AF13) and an atoxigenic (SRRC-AF36) strain of Aspergillus flavus, at several time points (5, 7, 10, and 14 days), in order to evaluate fluorescence hyperspectral imaging as a viable technique for early, non-invasive aflatoxin screening in resistant and susceptible corn lines. The study utilized the KSA to promote fungal growth and aflatoxin production in corn kernels inoculated under laboratory conditions and to provide actual aflatoxin values to relate with the imaging data. Each time point consisted of 78 kernels divided into four groups (30-susceptible, 30-resistant, 9-susceptible control, and 9-resistant control), per inoculum. On specified days, kernels were removed from the incubator and dried at 60°C to terminate fungal growth. Dry kernels were imaged with a VNIR hyperspectral sensor (image spectral range of 400-1000 nm), under UV excitation centered at 365 nm. Following imaging, kernels were submitted for the chemical AflaTest assay (VICAM). Fluorescence emissions were compared for all samples over 14 days. Analysis of strain differences separating the fluorescence emission peaks of resistant from the susceptible strain indicated that the emission peaks of the resistant strain and the susceptible strains differed significantly (p < 0.01) from each other, and there was a significant difference in fluorescence intensity between the treated and control kernels of both strains. These results indicate a viable role of fluorescence hyperspectral imaging for non-invasive screening of maize lines with divergent resistance to invasion by aflatoxigenic fungi.
Keywords: aflatoxin screening; fluorescence hyperspectral imaging; maize; susceptible and resistant hybrids; toxigenic and atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus.
Copyright © 2020 Hruska, Yao, Kincaid, Tao, Brown, Cleveland, Rajasekaran and Bhatnagar.