The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, today announced funding for a new initiative to ensure the safety and quality of grain produce on the island of Ireland, led by the UCD Institute of Food and Health’s Prof Fiona Doohan. “Mycotox-I brings together crop science, food science, analytical chemistry and data analytics to reduce the risk of mycotoxin contamination, while demonstrating the safety and quality of Irish grain,” said Prof Doohan.
“Harmful mycotoxins are produced in cereal grain by fungal diseases, and the levels in food are governed by existing and impending EU legislative limits. This project will gather all of the information needed to develop decision-support systems that will ensure the sustainable production of safe, quality cereal grain produce across Ireland.”
The project will first identify the hazard points in the production chain and select the most critical control points for monitoring and controlling mycotoxin contamination of grain and milled product. This will support the development of state-of-the-art analytical tools for mycotoxin detection across Ireland. Molecular tools will also be developed to detect the fungi that produce these toxins and assess their relationship with the plant microbiome.
Field and glasshouse studies will be used to determine the levels of mycotoxins in Irish grain, and to assess the impact of agronomic inputs, crop varieties, soil and environmental conditions on mycotoxin levels in grain. Based on the survey results, consumer studies will determine the risk of exposure to mycotoxins in the island population.
All of the information gathered will underpin the development of a new decision-support system based on machine learning. This system will be tailored to reduce mycotoxin loads in feed and in food produced on the island, enhancing the safety and quality of Irish grain.
Mycotox-I is a collaborative initiative involving five institutions – UCD, Teagasc, Maynooth University, Queen's University Belfast, and the AgriFood Biosciences Institute Northern Ireland – and drawing on the expertise of Prof Doohan and Dr Breige McNulty (UCD); Dr Steven Kildea, Dr Lisa Black and Dr Martin Danaher (Teagasc); Prof Andrew Parnell (MU); and Prof Chris Elliott and Dr Anne Nugent (QUB).
At UCD, it will involve researchers from the School of Biology and Environmental Science, School of Agriculture and Food Science, UCD Earth Institute and UCD Institute of Food and Health.
Mycotox-I receives funding of over €1.6m from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland. UCD is to be awarded €500,000.