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Safe and secure food from field to fork: management of fungal hazards in horticultural crops via optical based strategies (HortiFood)

Alternative title: Trygg og sikker mat fra jord til bord: bekjempelse av soppsykdommer i hagebruksvekster ved bruk av optisk bestråling (HortiFood)

Awarded: NOK 5.0 mill.

Food safety is one of the prerequisites for good public health and more than 80% of the food we eat comes directly or indirectly from crop production. About 20 to 40% of global crop production (pre- and post-harvest) are lost annually by pest attacks. Crop losses and quality degradation caused by fungal plant diseases are major constraints to food security globally with an estimated cost for the global economy around USD 220 billion annually. Strawberry and grape are the two most important fruit crops grown worldwide for fresh and processed markets with current gross production values about USD 18,000 and 68,000 million, respectively (FAOSTAT, 2016). B. cinerea and A. alternata are the two most important fungal pathogens that can cause severe pre- and post-harvest losses in this industry. While B. cinerea causes direct destructive losses, A. alternata is the main mycotoxigenic fungus in food and food by-products in addition to direct losses. The application of traditional chemical pesticides in the fields and during storage is still the most common crop protection strategy. Further, food additives like potassium metabisulfite are being used as preservative, antioxidant, stabilizer and bleaching agent in the production of wine, cider and juice. Therefore, substantial demand exists for the discovery of novel, cost-effective, environmentally friendly strategies that can replace hazardous fungicides and preservatives with a lower risk of developing pathogen resistance and exposure of consumers to mycotoxins. This joint project will strengthen and expand the environmentally friendly option of optical radiation-based management of these most important fungal diseases. The expected outcomes of this project will help to minimize the damages caused by these diseases and reduce i) food losses, ii) biotic contaminants of fungal pathogens and mycotoxins, iii) use of fungicides and preservatives during production and postharvest storage of strawberry and grapes.

Strawberry and grape are the two most important fruit crops grown worldwide for fresh and processed market. Botrytis cinerea and Alternaria alternata are the two most important fungal pathogens that can cause severe pre and post-harvest losses in this industry. At present, intensive use of fungicides and preservatives are inevitable in minimizing these losses. This endanger the UN sustainable development goal of ensuring food security by providing safe food. In this project, we will study the possible replacement of fungicides and preservatives by environmentally friendly optical radiation based strategies. While expanding the potential of optical radiation based strategies to another most important fungal pathogen Alternaria alternata, we will strengthen its practical application efficiency by exploring the i) possible role of melanin in UV screening and optical tolerance of Botrytis species, 2) storage temperature and its interaction with optical radiation in disease management efficiency, 3) selection and optimization of photosensitizer that can be exited with previously optimized optical wavelength range against powdery mildew management (250 nm-280 nm, 550 nm-660 nm), 4) effect of optical treatment on accumulation of secondary metabolites (anthocyanin, flavonols and toxins) and its potential impact on human health.