Shifts in the composition of the microbiota of stored wheat grains in response to fumigation

Manoj Kumar Solanki, Ahmed Abdelfattah, Malka Britzi, Varda Zakin, Michael Wisniewski, Samir Droby*, Edward Sionov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the wheat-associated microbiome is of major agricultural importance, little is known about the alterations in wheat grain microbial community composition during storage. Characterization of the bacterial and fungal communities in stored wheat grains revealed the impact of phosphine fumigation, one of the most effective methods to eliminate insects in stored commodities, on the composition of the wheat grain microbiome. High-throughput amplicon sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene and fungal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region was used to analyze the wheat grain microbiome at different times over as 6 months period of storage. Higher bacterial diversity was found across the samples during the first (immediately after harvest) and second (3 months later) time points, with a predominance of Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Planctomycetes. A two-fold decrease in the number of bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) was observed in wheat grains at the last time point (6 months later), following phosphine treatment. In contrast to the effect of phosphine on bacteria, it did not affect fungal diversity in stored grains. The majority of fungal sequences were assigned to Ascomycota, followed by Basidiomycota, Glomeromycota, and unidentified fungi, which were evenly distributed throughout the storage period. Alpha and beta diversity analyses were confirmed by examination of the cultured microbial taxa obtained from the stored wheat grains. Mycotoxin analysis of wheat grains collected after phosphine fumigation revealed the presence of Fusarium toxins, primarily deoxynivalenol (DON). Several mycotoxigenic Fusarium spp. were also detected in the same samples. Results of the present study indicate that microbiome of stored, whole wheat grains was strongly affected by phosphine fumigation, which changed the structure of the microbial community leading to shifts in species composition toward mycotoxigenic strains. A better understanding of the complex interactions within the microbial communities of stored grains will assist in the development of novel biocontrol strategies to overcome mycotoxin contamination.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1098
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Microbiome analysis
  • Mycotoxigenic fungi
  • Mycotoxins
  • Phosphine fumigation
  • Stored wheat grain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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