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The populations of European ash and its harmless fungal associate Hymenoscyphus albidus are in decline owing to ash dieback caused by the invasive Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, a fungus that in its native range in Asia is a harmless leaf endophyte of local ash species. To clarify the behavior of H. albidus and its spatial and temporal niche overlap with the invasive relative, we used light microscopy, fungal species-specific qPCR assays, and PacBio long-read amplicon sequencing of the ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 region to examine fungal growth and species composition in attached leaves of European ash. The plant material was collected from a healthy stand in central Norway, where ash saplings in late autumn showed leaflet vein necrosis like that commonly related to H. fraxineus. For reference, leaflet samples were analyzed from stands with epidemic level of ash dieback in southeastern Norway and Estonia. While H. albidus was predominant in the necrotic veins in the healthy stand, H. fraxineus was predominant in the diseased stands. Otherwise, endophytes with pathogenic potential in the genera Venturia (anamorph Fusicladium), Mycosphaerella (anamorph Ramularia), and Phoma, and basidiomycetous yeasts formed the core leaflet mycobiome both in the healthy and diseased stands. In necrotic leaf areas with high levels of either H. albidus or H. fraxineus DNA, one common feature was the high colonization of sclerenchyma and phloem, a region from which the ascomata of both species arise. Our data suggest that H. albidus can induce necrosis in ash leaves, but that owing to low infection pressure, this first takes place in tissues weakened by autumn senescence, 1–2 months later in the season than what is characteristic of H. fraxineus at an epidemic phase of ash dieback. The most striking difference between these fungi would appear to be the high fecundity of H. fraxineus. The adaptation to a host that is phylogenetically closely related to European ash, a tree species with high occurrence frequency in Europe, and the presence of environmental conditions favorable to H. fraxineus life cycle completion in most years may enable the build-up of high infection pressure and challenge of leaf defense prior to autumn senescence.


Over recent decades, the Norwegian cereal industry has had major practical and financial challenges associated with the occurrence of Fusarium head blight (FHB) pathogens and their associated mycotoxins in cereal grains. Deoxynivalenol (DON) is one of the most common Fusarium-mycotoxins in Norwegian oats, however T-2 toxin (T2) and HT-2 toxin (HT2) are also commonly detected. The aim of our study was to rank Nordic spring oat varieties and breeding lines by content of the most commonly occurring Fusarium mycotoxins (DON and HT2 + T2) as well as by the DNA content of their respective producers. We analyzed the content of mycotoxins and DNA of seven fungal species belonging to the FHB disease complex in grains of Nordic oat varieties and breeding lines harvested from oat field trials located in the main cereal cultivating district in South-East Norway in the years 2011–2020. Oat grains harvested from varieties with a high FHB resistance contained on average half the levels of mycotoxins compared with the most susceptible varieties, which implies that choice of variety may indeed impact on mycotoxin risk. The ranking of oat varieties according to HT2 + T2 levels corresponded with the ranking according to the DNA levels of Fusarium langsethiae, but differed from the ranking according to DON and Fusarium graminearum DNA. Separate tests are therefore necessary to determine the resistance towards HT2 + T2 and DON producers in oats. This creates practical challenges for the screening of FHB resistance in oats as today’s screening focuses on resistance to F. graminearum and DON. We identified oat varieties with generally low levels of both mycotoxins and FHB pathogens which should be preferred to mitigate mycotoxin risk in Norwegian oats.

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Frequent occurrences of high levels of Fusarium mycotoxins have been recorded in Norwegian oat grain. To elucidate the influence of tillage operations on the development of Fusarium and mycotoxins in oat grain, we conducted tillage trials with continuous oats at two locations in southeast Norway. We have previously presented the content of Fusarium DNA detected in straw residues and air samples from these fields. Grain harvested from ploughed plots had lower levels of Fusarium langsethiae DNA and HT-2 and T-2 toxins (HT2 + T2) compared to grain from harrowed plots. Our results indicate that the risk of F. langsethiae and HT2 + T2 contamination of oats is reduced with increasing tillage intensity. No distinct influence of tillage on the DNA concentration of Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium avenaceum in the harvested grain was observed. In contrast to F. graminearum and F. avenaceum, only limited contents of F. langsethiae DNA were observed in straw residues and air samples. Still, considerable concentrations of F. langsethiae DNA and HT2 + T2 were recorded in oat grain harvested from these fields. We speculate that the life cycle of F. langsethiae differs from those of F. graminearum and F. avenaceum with regard to survival, inoculum production and dispersal.