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    Several species of Aspergillus section Nigri, including potential mycotoxin producers, are common residents of grape vineyards, but the relative population size of individual species throughout the growing season is difficult to determine using traditional isolation and identification methods. Using a quantitative droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) method in combination with dilution plating, total Aspergillus section Nigri populations and relative proportions of A. niger, A. welwitschiae, A. carbonarius, and A. tubingensis were measured from vineyard samples without the need for identifying individual fungal isolates. Grapes were sampled from two raisin vineyards (vineyards A and B) at berry set, veraison, harvest, and raisin stages in two consecutive years. Plate counts showed that the total population of Aspergillus section Nigri present on the fruit increased from berry set to raisin and became a larger component of the total recovered fungal population in both vineyards in both years. Results from ddPCR analysis showed that the relative proportion of A. carbonarius among the four species assayed increased later in the season (harvest and raisin) in comparison to earlier in the season (berry set and veraison). Total fungal and Aspergillus section Nigri plate counts were not significantly different between vineyards in either year. However, vineyard A generally showed higher proportions of A. carbonarius in harvest and raisin samples than vineyard B. This coincided with higher incidence and levels of ochratoxin A in vineyard A harvest and raisin fruit than in vineyard B fruit. This work demonstrates that this ddPCR method is a useful tool for culture-independent monitoring of populations of mycotoxigenic Aspergillus species during grape and raisin production.

    Citation

    Jeffrey D Palumbo, Teresa L O'Keeffe, Yvonne S Ho, Matthew W Fidelibus. Population Dynamics of Aspergillus Section Nigri Species on Vineyard Samples of Grapes and Raisins. Journal of food protection. 2016 Mar;79(3):448-53


    PMID: 26939655

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