Characteristics of fungal communities and the sources of mold contamination in mildewed tobacco leaves stored under different climatic conditions
Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2021 Dec 1. doi: 10.1007/s00253-021-11703-2. Online ahead of print.
Tobacco mildew is a common postharvest problem caused by fungal growth. It can directly decrease product quality and cause serious economic loss in the tobacco industry. However, the fungal community characteristics of mildewed tobacco leaves and the related influencing factors remain unknown. Here, next-generation sequencing was used to characterize the fungal communities present in mildewed and healthy tobacco leaves stored under three different climatic conditions. Mildewed leaves showed a higher pH and total nitrogen content as well as a lower carbon nitrogen ratio than healthy leaves. Fungal diversity and richness were significantly lower in the mildewed tobacco leaves than in healthy tobacco leaves, with saprophytic fungi such as Xeromyces, Aspergillus, and Wallemia being the dominant molds. Network analysis showed that the complexity, connectivity, and stability of the fungal network were significantly poorer in heavy mildew tobacco leaves than in healthy leaves. NMDS and PERMANOVA analysis showed that the distribution of fungal communities in warehoused tobacco leaves differed significantly across different regions, and temperature and humidity were the key factors affecting these differences. Mildew-causing fungi were significantly enriched in tobacco leaf samples collected in the period between the completion of flue-curing and the start of pre-re-curing. This study demonstrated that mildew is an irreversible process that destroys the balance of the tobacco ecosystem, and that environmental factors play important roles in shaping fungal communities in tobacco leaves.Key points• The diversity and composition of the fungal communities in mildewed tobacco leaves were significantly different from those in healthy tobacco leaves.• Climatic factors may play an important role in shaping fungal communities in tobacco leaves.• Tobacco leaves were most vulnerable to mold contamination between the post-flue-curing and pre-re-curing period.