infected cornMaize grains colonized by Aspergillus species.

An innovative biocontrol solution had been developed by USDA-ARS. This breakthrough technology, already widely used in the US, reduces aflatoxins during both crop development and post-harvest storage, and throughout the value chain. Atoxigenic strain based biological control is a natural, nontoxic technology that uses the ability of native atoxigenic strains of Aspergillus flavus (the fungus that produces aflatoxin, but atoxigenic strains cannot produce the toxin) to naturally out-compete their aflatoxin producing cousins.

IITA, in partnership with USDA-ARS, has successfully adapted this technology for use in Nigeria using native micro-flora, and has developed a biocontrol product called aflasafe™. Field testing of aflasafe™ in Nigeria over the past 4 years has produced extremely positive results: aflatoxin contamination of maize and groundnut was consistently reduced by 80–90%, and even as high as 99%. Native atoxigenic strains have been isolated from Kenya, Burkina Faso and Senegal, and are being evaluated to develop country and region-specific products. Efforts are underway to begin similar efforts in other countries. See PROJECTS for more details.

This technology is particularly effective in the African context because it addresses the source of aflatoxin the fungus in the soil before it can contaminate the crop prior to harvest. In addition, the atoxigenic strains are carried over from field to stores providing protection during storage, and persist in the environment for several years providing multi-year and multi-crop benefits.

Adapting and applying this solution to address aflatoxin contamination in Africa can dramatically improve the health and income of millions of families while reducing commodity losses due to contamination. However, several downstream commercialization efforts must be addressed before large-scale adoption of biocontrol by smallholder farmers becomes a reality.

IITA, USDA-ARS, AATF, Doreo Partners and several national institutions such as KARI are working as a team in this effort.