Participatory mycotoxin management in India and the genetic determinants of symptom manifestation in the sorghum grain mold disease complex

Anthony Wenndt
2020
Mycotoxin contamination is an important constraint to food security, and public health in a range of food systems. Dietary exposure to mycotoxins is associated with health and nutrition adversities in humans and livestock. Surveillance systems and management strategies are rarely attentive to the specific needs and priorities of smallholder farmer communities, resulting in insufficient problem-solving capacity and poor adoption of effective intervention options. The aims of this dissertation
more » ... e to understand the drivers of mycotoxin contamination in Indian smallholder food systems and to evaluate the utility of farmer research networks for connecting communities to locally meaningful and efficacious interventions. Novel insights into household-level aflatoxin B1 exposure risk were gained and a risk index was validated. Taking a food system-scale approach to surveillance, a range of crops were tested for several important mycotoxins across diverse Indian food systems over six seasonal time points. A model for participatory research in the context of a farmer research network (FRN) was implemented in six vulnerable communities, which designed and evaluated several pre-and post-harvest management strategies. In addition, I explored the host genetic determinants of symptom manifestation of the mycotoxigenic multi-fungal sorghum grain mold (SGM) disease complex. Several novel phenotypes of SGM symptom manifestation were developed and used to perform association studies. Candidate host genes underpinning fungal community composition in the disease complex were identified, yielding new insights regarding the contributions of mycotoxigenic F. verticillioides to disease outcomes. v BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Anthony was raised on a small farm near Keystone, Iowa, where from his earliest days he became interested in agriculture. As a teenager, he attended the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa, and subsequently was awarded a Borlaug-Ruan International Internship at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Mbita Point, Kenya. At ICIPE, his research with smallholder farmers opened his eyes to the importance of connecting science with human values in order to create and sustain progress in agricultural development. He went on to pursue undergraduate studies in Biology, Russian, and Global Development at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Over the course of his undergraduate career, he engaged with agricultural science, fungal biology, and smallholder farmer livelihoods both domestically and abroad. Anthony began his Ph.D. research in plant pathology at Cornell University in 2015 with Dr. Rebecca Nelson. In his first year he joined the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition as a Tata-Cornell Scholar, prompting him to focus his graduate research on mycotoxin surveillance and management in rural Indian communities. vi Dedicated to the farmers whose lives were touched in a small way by this work, and whose work touched my life immeasurably vii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First and foremost, I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Rebecca Nelson, for her unwavering support throughout my graduate studies. The passion she exudes for her work and for the farmers it impacts has been a source of inspiration for me from the very beginning and will continue to inspire me for a lifetime. She has become not only a mentor, but also a role model whose footsteps I hope to follow.
doi:10.7298/111r-8x53 fatcat:brpx32abvngifftuq7tyqmb7ji