Multivariate analysis of the temporal changes of fungal communities in unsafe storage conditions of some common wheat varieties in relation to relative humidity level and rice weevil infestation

  • F. Fleurat-Lessard INRA – UR 1264 Mycology & Food Safety (MycSA) - 71 Av. Edouard Bourleaux - 33883 - Villenave d’Ornon Cedex, France. E-mail:
  • R. Fourar-Belaifa University of Blida - Department of Agronomical Science - 09000 Blida, Algeria
  • Z. Bouznad Institut National Agronomique - Laboratory of Plant Pathology & Molecular Biology – 12600 - El Harrach – Alger, Algeria


Fungal colonization of stored grain bulks is a major threat for mycotoxin contamination and reduction in viability of grain when stored under unsafe conditions, e.g. under high r.h. and insect presence. An investigation was carried out to identify the trends of the changes in the fungal species communities during storage of wheat grain under these unsafe storage conditions. The distribution change of fungi genera was monitored on small grain samples of three wheat varieties with different kernel size and hardness (soft, medium-hard and hard), during 160 d storage at constant temperature of 22-23°C, at two r.h. levels, and with or without an infestation by the rice weevil . According to their behavioral differences related to grain water activity affinity, fungi genera were classified in three groups: i/ The hydrophilic group of field fungi (Fusarium, Geniculifera, Sepedonium, and Chrysogenum); ii/ The intermediate semi-xerophilic fungi (Alternaria, Mucor, Ulocladium, Epicoccum, and Arthrobotrys); iii/ The storage xerophilic fungi (Penicillium and Aspergillus). Temporal abundance of these three groups with grain storage time and condition was observed in weak relation with wheat variety and insect presence. The multivariate comparison of the different experimental situations revealed a difference in the susceptibility of varieties to fungal species colonization in close relationship with the final equilibrium level between ambient r.h. and grain moisture content which was observed variety-dependent. This difference was not related to grain hardness but rather to a different r.h. affinity. For one variety (Apache), the germination rate was declining more rapidly than for the two others with storage time. Any significant relation between sound and infested grain condition and the contamination rate by storage fungi could be found. The susceptibility of the three wheat varieties to critical storage conditions and fungal colonization may lead in one variety to a hot-spot formation.

Keywords: Common wheat, Variety, Fungal microflora, Insect pest, Fungi abundance change