Our mission

Aflatoxins are toxic chemicals produced by certain fungi during crop infection. Crop contamination with aflatoxins may reduce crop value by limiting available markets. Our lab seeks methods to reduce aflatoxin contamination. Our research is directed at both the causative fungi and the contamination process. We use variability within and among fungal communities of aflatoxin producing fungi to develop insights into the ecology and biology of aflatoxin-producing and closely related fungi and into the contamination process.

We frequently take advanced approaches like geostatistics and pyrosequencing to investigate etiology and epidemiology of contamination, as well as adaptation, divergence, dispersal, pathogenicity, morphogenesis, and cellular regulation. We seek to understand forces that induce and maintain variability within fungal communities, including forces that influence the composition of fungal communities. Knowledge of contamination and the causal fungi are used to develop techniques to reduce crop vulnerability to contamination and, as a result, exposure of human populations to these potent immune suppressive and carcinogenic toxins.

The use of atoxigenic strains of A. flavus as biological control agents from the prevention of aflatoxin contamination is a technology originally developed in our lab. This biocontrol technology reduces the aflatoxin producing potential of fungi resident in agricultural fields and as a result crop contamination. There are several ongoing collaborations with domestic and international partners seeking to utilize this technology. Other aspects of our work include characterization of factors that influence the contamination process and identification of crop characteristics that dictate the susceptibility to contamination.