A study of some of the inter-relationships between maize and the seed storage fungi as typified by Aspergillus flavus var. columnaris.
The seed storage fungi (xerotolerant) species of the genera Aspergillus and Penicillium} are renowned for their devastating effects on stored grain and grain products. In view of the fact that most of these fungi Iiberate toxins which can be harmful to both man and his livestock this problem is becoming increasingly relevant, particularly in developing countries. The seed storage fungi are said to be saprophytes and opportunistic invaders of dead or naturally dried organic matter, and as such no direct host-pathogen relationship has been ascribed to them. This dissertation reports aspects of an investigation into the modes/pathways utilised by these fungi in their infection of maize caryopses (seeds) and plants. The work involved studies on: the effects of protracted storage on maize seeds; the morphology of storage fungi; extra-cellular enzymes of storage fungi; the pathways utiIised by the storage fungi in invasion of seed tissues; and the effects of the storage fungi on the seeds. Correlations have been made on a species basis between the extent of seed deterioration and fungal aggressiveness. The results of these investigations indicated that apart from affecting seed vigour and viability, these fungi can also affect plant vigour. This latter aspect was further investigated to determine whether a seed storage fungus could infect germinating maize seeds, and remain an internal contaminant of the tissues during plant growth and development. These latter studies revealed that Aspergillus flavus var. columnaris is capable of systemic transmission from one seed generation to the next. This hitherto unrecognised phenomenon apart from indicating that the fungal species is in fact a biotroph as well as a saprophyte, also has implications In control measures.