SPLS Tuesday Seminar - Stakeholder-driven research to mitigate aflatoxin contamination in diverse cropping systems

Dr. Hillary L. Mehl, Research Plant Pathologist
USDA-ARS Pest Management and Biocontrol Research Unit
Tuesday, October 18, 2022 - 4:00pm
Marley 230 or Zoom https://arizona.zoom.us/j/83941552191 password: spls2022

Abstract: Aflatoxins are toxic, carcinogenic fungal metabolites produced by Aspergillus flavus and related fungi that contaminate crops including corn, cottonseed, peanuts, and tree nuts. Due to regulation of aflatoxin concentrations in food and feed products for both domestic and international markets, aflatoxin contamination costs U.S. producers billions of dollars on an annual basis. One of the most effective tactics to mitigate aflatoxin contamination is the application of non-aflatoxigenic biocontrol strains of A. flavus, a technology that was first developed by USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists several decades ago. Over one dozen aflatoxin biocontrol products have been approved as biopesticides in the U.S. and other countries, and these products are applied to susceptible crops in regions with perennial risk of aflatoxin contamination. Despite successes of the aflatoxin biocontrol technology, there is a need to improve the effectiveness and reduce the cost of biocontrol applications and to adapt the technology to a variety of cropping systems. In cooperation with stakeholders, research priorities for optimizing the aflatoxin biocontrol technology have been identified. Recent and ongoing research will be presented that demonstrates successful collaborations between USDA-ARS scientists and the Arizona cotton, Texas corn, and California tree nut industries. Ultimately, this research will result in reliable, affordable, area-wide management of aflatoxins which will benefit both the producers and consumers of agricultural commodities worldwide.   
Bio: Dr. Hillary L. Mehl received her B.S. in Botany from Humboldt State University and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of California at Davis. After conducting postdoctoral research in the USDA-ARS aflatoxin biocontrol lab in Tucson, AZ, Dr. Mehl began a position as an Assistant Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist with Virginia Tech. After being promoted to Associate Professor in 2020, Dr. Mehl took a position as a Research Plant Pathologist in the USDA-ARS Pest Management and Biocontrol Research Unit in Tucson, AZ. She currently serves as the lead scientist for the aflatoxin biocontrol project. Dr. Mehl conducts basic and applied research aimed at elucidating biotic and abiotic factors that impact both crop aflatoxin contamination risk and the efficacy of aflatoxin biocontrol. Her current and previous work have focused on engaging stakeholders in order to conduct high impact research with both short- and long-term practical applications. 
Dr. Mehl will be presenting in Marley 230. A live broadcast is available in Zoom https://arizona.zoom.us/j/83941552191 password: spls2022. Refreshments will be provided in the Marley Lobby from 3:30 PM - 4:00 PM