This study was designed to investigate the role of hybrids in maize Fusarium section Liseola interaction and fumonisin production, with particular emphasis on the occurrence and accumulation of hidden fumonisins in maize (masking phenomenon). In this 2 year study, naturally infected field crops were chosen with 10 maize hybrids, six of them grown in both years. Maize samples collected in 2010 showed a higher incidence of fungal infection as well as higher fumonisin contamination than those obtained in 2009 but a very similar incidence of F. section Liseola. Fumonisin masking was confirmed in raw maize, with a lower amount of hidden forms as compared to free fumonisins detected in the year with higher contamination. The chemical composition of the different hybrids was determined and correlated with the contamination data: the results obtained highlight the main role of fatty acids, with a higher fumonisin contamination in hybrids showing a higher linoleic acid content and a higher masking action in hybrids with higher oleic to linoleic ratio. These results represent a good basis to explain maize hybrid susceptibility to F. section Liseola infection, fumonisin contamination, and masking not related to a specific commercial hybrid but extendable to all hybrids.
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