Comparison of Aspergillus Section Nigri Species Populations in Conventional and Organic Raisin Vineyards.


Foodborne Toxin Detection and Prevention Research Unit, US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Albany, CA, USA. [Email]


Species belonging to Aspergillus section Nigri are widespread in the vineyard environment, both in soil and on plant surfaces. We used plate counts and droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) methods to compare populations of the four most prevalent species (A. carbonarius, A. niger, A. welwitschiae, and A. tubingensis) over two consecutive years in conventional and organic vineyards, to determine whether management affects the potential distribution of mycotoxigenic Aspergillus species. In 2016, plate counts showed that soil populations of total filamentous fungi and of Aspergillus section Nigri species were not significantly different between conventional and organic vineyards. In 2017, while total fungal populations in soil were not significantly different, Aspergillus section Nigri populations were significantly higher in organic vineyard soil. In both years, there were no significant differences in total fungal populations and in Aspergillus section Nigri populations on fruit surfaces collected from conventional and organic vineyards. Likewise, ddPCR methods did not show significant differences in percent distribution of Aspergillus species in soil and fruit between conventional and organic vineyards. These results suggest that intervention strategies for preharvest control of potential mycotoxigenic fungi are likely to be equally compatible with either vineyard management strategy.