Crop Rotations with Energy Crops – Chances and Risks for Plant Protection

Fusarium foot rot in wheat and green rye

This project is a cooperation between the Universities of Rostock and Göttingen, supported by the Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR). The increasing land use for energy crops offers chances and risks for crop rotations. There are several possibilities to open crop rotations due to the use of energy crops. But in agriculture, only few and well adapted energy crops are cultivated due to logistically reasons. This leads to many phytopathological problems: Manly soil borne pathogens and hard to manage weeds are stimulated. With exemplarily crop rotations consisting of wheat, oilseed rape and maize, the potential of energy crop rotations to reduce plant protection applications and its preceding crop value of energy crops should be quantified. Main focus of the Göttingen group are the impacts of energy crop rotations on soil borne, crop rotation depending pathogens in winter wheat and green rye, especially on toxigenic Fusarium species:
  • Analysis of important fungal, crop rotation depending pathogens at stem basis and roots of wheat, i.e. Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici, Pseudocercosporella herpotrichoides, Rhizoctonia cerealis und Fusarium spp.
  • Susceptibility of green rye against toxigenic Fusarium species and effect of DON-contaminated green rye on the biogas fermentation process
  • Impact of cultivar resistance of winter wheat on natural DON-degradation into non-phytotoxic DON-3-Glucosides
To analyze the important fungal, crop rotation depending pathogens in energy crop rotations we conduct field trials in Rostock and Göttingen. The most common crop for biogas stations is maize. In many regions maize is cultivated in combination with green rye as precrop. Both cultivars are very good hosts for Fusarium spp. This could lead to elevated infestations of stem basis of green rye and wheat within crop rotations by Fusarium spp. After stem base and root infection by toxigenic Fusarium species, produced mycotoxins (Deoxynivalenol - DON) are translocated into upper plant parts and contaminate the whole plant. This was analysed within green house trails with wheat and rye. In fermentation analysis it was shown, that DON has a negative effect on the biogas fermentation process. Furthermore different rye cultivars showed significant differences in susceptibility against Fusarium spp., whereas green rye was more contaminated with toxins.
Another important aspect of this project is the natural capability of winter wheat to convert the mycotoxin DON into non-phytotoxic DON-3-Glycosides (D3G) after a stem base infection with toxigenic Fusarium species. Therefore, different wheat cultivars are infected under controlled conditions at roots and stem base with Fusarium culmorum. DON, D3G and the expression levels of known DON-response related genes are determined. This gives insight into the dispersal of DON and D3G within the plant, the site of conversion and the different capability in DON-degradation of different wheat cultivars.


  • Prof. Dr. Bärbel Gerowitt, Institute for Land Use, Crop Health, University of Rostock
  • PD. Dr. Christine Struck, Institute for Land Use, Crop Health, University of Rostock
  • Dr. Horst-Henning Steinmann, Research Centre for Agriculture and the Environment, University of Göttingen

Scientific Staff: