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Plant Science
Vol. 234, 2015, Pages: 119–132

Biotechnological advances for combating Aspergillus flavus and aflatoxin contamination in crops

Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur, Sowmini Sunkara, Madhurima Bhatnagar-Panwar, Farid Waliyar, Kiran Kumar Sharma

Genetic Transformation Laboratory, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheru 502324, Telangana, India.


Aflatoxins are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic and immunosuppressive byproducts of Aspergillus spp. that contaminate a wide range of crops such as maize, peanut, and cotton. Aflatoxin not only affects crop production but renders the produce unfit for consumption and harmful to human and livestock health, with stringent threshold limits of acceptability. In many crops, breeding for resistance is not a reliable option because of the limited availability of genotypes with durable resistance to Aspergillus. Understanding the fungal/crop/environment interactions involved in aflatoxin contamination is therefore essential in designing measures for its prevention and control. For a sustainable solution to aflatoxin contamination, research must be focused on identifying and improving knowledge of host–plant resistance factors to aflatoxin accumulation. Current advances in genetic transformation, proteomics, RNAi technology, and marker-assisted selection offer great potential in minimizing pre-harvest aflatoxin contamination in cultivated crop species. Moreover, developing effective phenotyping strategies for transgenic as well as precision breeding of resistance genes into commercial varieties is critical. While appropriate storage practices can generally minimize post-harvest aflatoxin contamination in crops, the use of biotechnology to interrupt the probability of pre-harvest infection and contamination has the potential to provide sustainable solution.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Aflatoxin; Aspergillus flavus; Peanut; Maize; Host–plant resistance; Transgenics.

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