Precision Agriculture

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 698–720 | Cite as

Crop biomass and humidity related factors reflect the spatial distribution of phytopathogenic Fusarium fungi and their mycotoxins in heterogeneous fields and landscapes

  • Marina E. H. Müller
  • Sylvia Koszinski
  • Donovan E. Bangs
  • Marc Wehrhan
  • Andreas Ulrich
  • Gernot Verch
  • Alexander Brenning


Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a global problem in small-grains agriculture that results in yield losses and, more seriously, produces harmful toxins that enter the food chain. This study builds on previous research identifying within-field humidity as an important factor in infection processes by Fusarium species and its mycotoxin production. Environmental variables describing topographic control of humidity (TWI), soil texture and related moisture by electrical conductivity (ECa), and canopy humidity by density (NDVI) were explored in their relationship to the fungal infection rates, the abundance of trichothecene-producing Fusarium spp. as determined by TRI 6 gene copies and mycotoxin accumulation. Field studies were performed at four field sites in northeastern Germany in 2009 and 2011. In the wet year 2011, a high Fusarium infection rate resulted in a high abundance of trichothecene-producing fungi as well as high concentrations of mycotoxins. Simultaneously, Fusarium spp. inhibited the development of other filamentous fungi. Overall, a very heterogeneous distribution of pathogen infections and mycotoxin concentrations were displayed in each field in each landscape. The NDVI serves as an important predictor of the occurrence of phytopathogenic Fusarium fungi and their mycotoxins in a field and landscape scale. In addition, the ECa reflects the distribution of the most frequently occurring mycotoxin deoxynivalenol within the fields and landscapes. In all cases, TWI was not found to be a significant variable in the models. All in all, the results extend our knowledge about suitable indicators of FHB infection and mycotoxin production within the field.


Phytopathogenic fungi Mycotoxin Spatial heterogeneity Remote sensing imagery Spatial linear mixed-effects model Humidity 



RapidEye data obtained from the RapidEye Science Archive (RESA) were provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with funds from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (original proposals 278 and 457). The authors are grateful to Kathrin Jürgens (Department of Landscape Information Systems ZALF) for constructing the precipitation map and to Lidia Völker (Institute of Soil Landscape Research ZALF) for deriving the TWI values. We thank Martina Peters, Grit von der Waydbrink and Sigune Weinert for their excellent technical assistance. The farmer’s support at Dedelow, Falkenhagen, Pasenow and Gross Miltzow is highly appreciated.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

Research studies did not involve human participants or animals. Authors explicitly consent to principles of ethical and professional standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marina E. H. Müller
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sylvia Koszinski
    • 3
  • Donovan E. Bangs
    • 4
  • Marc Wehrhan
    • 3
  • Andreas Ulrich
    • 1
  • Gernot Verch
    • 5
  • Alexander Brenning
    • 4
    • 6
  1. 1.Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)Institute of Landscape BiogeochemistryMünchebergGermany
  2. 2.Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB)BerlinGermany
  3. 3.Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)Institute of Soil Landscape ResearchMünchebergGermany
  4. 4.Department of Geography and Environmental ManagementUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  5. 5.Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)Research Station DedelowDedelowGermany
  6. 6.Department of GeographyFriedrich Schiller University JenaJenaGermany

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