Mycotoxigenic fungi colonizing food matrices are inevitably competing with a wide range of other resident fungi. The outcomes of these interactions are influenced by the prevailing environmental conditions and the competing species. We have evaluated the competitiveness of F. culmorum and A. carbonarius in the grain and grape food chain for their in vitro and in situ dominance in the presence of other fungi, and the effect that such interactions have on colony interactions, growth and deoxynivalenol (DON) and ochratoxin A (OTA) production. The Index of Dominance shows that changes in water activity (aw) and temperature affect the competitiveness of F. culmorum and A. carbonarius against up to nine different fungi. Growth of both mycotoxigenic species was sometimes inhibited by the presence of other competing fungi. For example, A. niger uniseriate and biseriate species decreased growth of A. carbonarius, while Aureobasidium pullulans and Cladosporium species stimulated growth. Similar changes were observed when F. graminearum was interacting with other grain fungi such as Alternaria alternata, Cladopsorium herbarum and Epicoccum nigrum. The impact on DON and OTA production was very different. For F. culmorum, the presence of other species often inhibited DON production over a range of environmental conditions. For A. carbonarius, on a grape-based medium, the presence of certain species resulted in a significant stimulation of OTA production. However, this was influenced by both temperature and aw level. This suggests that the final mycotoxin concentrations observed in food matrices may be due to complex interactions between species and the environmental history of the samples analyzed
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