Using barley as the raw material for ethanol production results in an additional product dried grains for animal feed. But the presence of a fungal pathogen sometimes found in barley can result in a lethal toxin, called mycotoxin, in the animal feed. Now, Virginia Tech and Agricultural Research Service, USDA researchers have shown that newly developed transgenic yeast used during fermentation will help modify the mycotoxin in the animal feed product to a less toxic form. The research is published online in the September issue of Biotechnology for Biofuels.
New varieties of hulless winter barley have almost as much starch as corn and can be grown at times and in places where corn cannot, offering a flexible resource. When processed for ethanol, the versatile grain also provides a wholesome animal feed unless contaminated. Of particular concern are trichothecene mycotoxins, which inhibit protein synthesis, an essential function of all tissues. The result can be immune system suppression and reproductive problems. Animals usually refuse to eat infected grain; otherwise death would be the eventual result.
"So we decided to see if the toxin could be modified to a less toxic product during fermentation," said Piyum A. Khatibi of Long Island, .N.Y., at that time a Ph.D. student in plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.
Khatibi was working on the problem of trichothecene contamination of grains with David Schmale, associate professor of food safety and plant biosecurity in the college, and plant breeder Carl Griffey, professor of crop and soil environmental science in the college. Griffey's barley team has developed resistant varieties of barley, as well as high starch varieties. The Virginia Tech barley team, made up of Wynse Brooks, research associate; Mark Vaughn, research specialist; and Greg Berger of Schulenburg, Tex., a Ph.D. student, all in crop and soi
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