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Aspergillus and Aflatoxin in Groundnut
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Food Security Through Food Safety
Concerted Efforts to Overcome Aflatoxin Contamination

Mycotoxins, especially the group called aflatoxins, are small molecules toxic to both humans and animals. They are produced by two fungi, Aspergillus flavus and A.Parasiticus. Aflatoxin appears in many agricultural products, but especially in groundnuts (peanuts).

Contamination can occur any time from pre-harvest to storage. Pre-harvest infection is significant in the semi-arid tropics, especially when end-of-season drought occurs. Poor post-harvest conditions in warm humid area,and bad harvesting and storage practices lead to rapid development of the fingi and higher levels of toxins. This is especially true in developing contries where preventive measures are frequently ignored.

Consumption of Aflatoxins by human beings can lead to liver cancer. A person's chances of contracting cancer are compounded significantly if he/she carries the hepatitis B virus(the virus that causes jandice), as do an estimated 20million people in India. Aflatoxins do their damage by suppressing the immune  response. They affect poultry and, when present in cattle fodder, the yield and quality of milk. Contaminated groundnuts and groundnut products cannot reach lucrative international markets, and exports from Asia and Africa have declined due to the stringent quality requirements of importing countries.

The enormous health and economic significance of food and feed contaminants have become steadily clearer since the 1960s, when mycotoxin was first discovered. Health issues in the developed world have been largely addressed, but elsewhere the situation is very different. Recent studies conducted by ICRISAT in southern India reveal aflatoxin levels as high as 40 times permissible limits. Because both groundnut haulms and the cake made from crushed seeds are major sources of animal feed. contamination of milk in both urban and rural areas exposes a huge cross section of the population, particularly children, to the terrible effects of aflatoxins.

Aflatoxin Contamination in Groundnut: Mapping and Management in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Adjoining Areas
  • Assessment of pre-and post-harvest contamination of groundnut kernels in targeted areas of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka 
  • Evaluation of currently available improved agronomic practices and selected groundnut genotypes for their influence on aflatoxin contamination

    Project Partners:

    National Research Centre for Groundnut (India) Gujarat Agricultural University (India) Agriculture, Man, Ecology (AME) and NGOs

Selection for Peanut Varieties with Low Aflatoxin Risk

  • Mechanisms underlying aflatoxin contamination
  • Identification of cultivars that resist aflatoxin contamination
  • Development of a selection index for effective screening of genotypes
Project Partners:
Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (India) Queensland Depatment of Primary Industries (Australia)

Peanut CSRP activities in collaboration with ICRISAT and NARS in West Africa

  • Post-harvest technologies for minimizing aflatoxin levels in Mali
  • Development of a model for assessing risk during storage.
Project Partners:
University of Georgia (USA)
Institut deconomie rurale (MALI)

ELISA, the Enabling Technology a Major  Achievement of a DFID funded Project
Cost-effective technologies have been developed for estimation aflatoxin contamination in various foods and feeds, including milk. these have provided accurate results rapidly and cost effectively, and are adaptable to situations in developing countries.

Strategies for Reducing Aflatoxin Levels in  Groundnut-based Foods and Feeds in India: a Step towards Improving Health of Humans and Livestock
  • Assessment of socio-economic issues with regard to farmers' perception of the consequences of aflatoxin contamination 
  • Assessment at farm level in Ananthapur district where improved cultural practices are adopted(pre-harvest and contamination during harvest)
  • Detemination of current levels in produce stored by farmers, traders, and oil producers
  • Influence of contaminated haulms on aflatoxin contamination in milk
  • Generation of molecular tools to distinguish toxigenic fungus isolates from non-toxigenic ones
Project Partners:
University of Reading (UK)
Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (India)
Queen's University of Belfast (Ireland)
Society for Transformation, Agriculture and Alternatives in Development AME and NGOs

Groundnut Germplasm Project (GGP) funded by CFC
Conservation, Evaluation and Dissemination of Groundnut Germplasm, and Foundation Seed Production and Distribution for the West African Region

This Project addresses issues of aflatoxin contamination in selected countries in West Africa.

  • Screening methods providing reliable information on response of various genotypes
  • On-farm evaluation of selected genotypes in West Africa
Project Partners:
Institut Senegalais de recherches agricoles (Senegal)
Centre de cooperation internationale en recherche agronomique pour le developpement (France)

ICRISAT has established effective partnerships to tackle the aflatoxin problem. Future thrusts will include:
  • Inducing awareness among producers, traders and consumers about issues of economic significance, including risks to health and good prices for quality products
  • Developing cost-effective agronomic practices
  • Selecting low-cost biocontrol agents
  • Identifying genotypes that resist contamination by conventional and non-conventional methods at farm level
  • Promoting the technologies among both marginal farmers and commercial holdings to improve production of quality nuts
ICRISAT's efforts to bring together different partners and donors have resulted in substantial progress towards development of strategies for the management of aflatoxin contamination. In so doing, the Institute has made optimal use of available funds. the projects of each partner complement those of the others, the combined expertise contributing to a common goal. Partnership is indispensable in solving this highly complex problem.
ACIAR Australian Center for International Agricultural Research
CFC Common fund for Commodities
DFID Department for International Development
NATP National Agricultural Technologies Project of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research
CRSP Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program
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On-farm management of aflatoxin contamination of groundnut in West Africa.
Pre and Postharvest Management of Aflatoxin Contamination in Groundnut
Peanut CRSP Progress
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Effects of Aflatoxin on Health
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Aspergillus flavus and
A. parasiticus

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Aflatoxin Estimation by Elisa
Farmers practices and socioeconomic issues in groundnut based livelihood system
ICRISAT Strategy
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Aflatoxin research on:
Sources of resistance
Breeding for resistance
Integrated aflatoxin management
Biological Control
Approaches for Bio-technologies
Diagnostic tools
Crops Contaminated by A. flavus and Aflatoxin in India (Data from recent surveys).

Post - harvest technologies
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