Increased susceptibility and reduced phytoalexin accumulation in drought-stressed peanut kernels challenged with Aspergillus flavus.


Three genotypes of peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.), with ICG numbers 221, 1104, and 1326, were grown in three replicate plots and drought stressed during the last 58 days before harvest by withholding irrigation water. Within each plot there were eight levels of stress ranging from 1.1 to 25.9 cm of water. Kernels harvested from the plots were hydrated to 20% moisture and challenged with Aspergillus flavus. Fungal colonization, aflatoxin content, and phytoalexin accumulation were measured. Fungal colonization of non-drought-stressed kernels virtually ceased by 3 days after inoculation, when the phytoalexin concentration exceeded 50 micrograms/g (fresh weight) of kernels, but the aflatoxin concentration continued to rise exponentially for an additional day. When fungal colonization, aflatoxin production, and phytoalexin accumulation were measured 3 days after drought-stressed material was challenged, the following relationships were apparent. Fungal colonization was inversely related to water supply (r varied from -0.848 to -0.904, according to genotype), as was aflatoxin production (r varied from -0.876 to -0.912, according to genotype); the phytoalexin concentration was correlated with water supply when this exceeded 11 cm (r varied from 0.696 to 0.917, according to genotype). The results are discussed in terms of the critical role played by drought stress in predisposing peanuts to infection by A. flavus and the role of the impaired phytoalexin response in mediating this increased susceptibility.

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