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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1999 Jan;65(1):41-4.

Incidence of Fusarium spp. and levels of fumonisin B1 in maize in western Kenya.

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  • 1Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, Nairobi, Kenya.


Maize kernel samples were collected in 1996 from smallholder farm storages in the districts of Bomet, Bungoma, Kakamega, Kericho, Kisii, Nandi, Siaya, Trans Nzoia, and Vihiga in the tropical highlands of western Kenya. Two-thirds of the samples were good-quality maize, and one-third were poor-quality maize with a high incidence of visibly diseased kernels. One hundred fifty-three maize samples were assessed for Fusarium infection by culturing kernels on a selective medium. The isolates obtained were identified to the species level based on morphology and on formation of the sexual stage in Gibberella fujikuroi mating population tests. Fusarium moniliforme (G. fujikuroi mating population A) was isolated most frequently, but F. subglutinans (G. fujikuroi mating population E), F. graminearum, F. oxysporum, F. solani, and other Fusarium species were also isolated. The high incidence of kernel infection with the fumonisin-producing species F. moniliforme indicated a potential for fumonisin contamination of Kenyan maize. However, analysis of 197 maize kernel samples by high-performance liquid chromatography found little fumonisin B1 in most of the samples. Forty-seven percent of the samples contained fumonisin B1 at levels above the detection limit (100 ng/g), but only 5% were above 1,000 ng/g, a proposed level of concern for human consumption. The four most-contaminated samples, with fumonisin B1 levels ranging from 3, 600 to 11,600 ng/g, were from poor-quality maize collected in the Kisii district. Many samples with a high incidence of visibly diseased kernels contained little or no fumonisin B1, despite the presence of F. moniliforme. This result may be attributable to the inability of F. moniliforme isolates present in Kenyan maize to produce fumonisins, to the presence of other ear rot fungi, and/or to environmental conditions unfavorable for fumonisin production.

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