Microbial Load of Hard Red Winter Wheat Produced at Three Growing Environments across Nebraska, USA

Luis Sabillón, Jayne Stratton, Devin J. Rose, Teshome H. Regassa, Andréia Bianchini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Post-flowering weather variables in farm fields may influence the microbial loads of wheat grain. In this study, the effects of weather variables following wheat flowering on the microbiological quality of wheat were evaluated over two consecutive growing seasons (2011 to 2012 and 2012 to 2013) in the state of Nebraska, USA. Three hard red winter wheat lines, including two commercial cultivars (Overland and McGill) and one experimental line (NW07505), were planted in three regions with contrasting key weather variables (Southeast, South Central, and Panhandle district) to ensure that developing seeds were exposed to different weather conditions. The natural microbial flora and deoxynivalenol concentrations of 54 freshly harvested wheat samples (three samples per wheat line, with a total of 9 samples per district) were analyzed to evaluate the impacts of the weather conditions prevailing from flowering to harvesting in each growing location (district) and season on the microbiological quality and safety of wheat grain. In 2012, the values for aerobic plate counts, Enterobacteriaceae, yeasts, molds, and internal mold infection levels were significantly lower in grain samples collected from the Panhandle district than in grain harvested from the South Central and Southeastern districts. No significant differences in the yeast counts were found in grain collected from all districts in 2013, but the levels of internal mold infection and mold counts were significantly higher in grain from the Southeastern district than in grain from the Panhandle district. Deoxynivalenol was detected in all districts; however, the concentrations were below the advisory level of 1 mg/kg for processed wheat. Microbial growth during grain development seems to be dependent on the existence of a threshold level of weather variables during the season. In general, the microbial loads in wheat grain tended to be lower in those areas with lower relative humidity levels (below 55%) and with temperatures lower than 13.78C and higher than 31.58C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)646-654
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016


  • Deoxynivalenol
  • Microbial load
  • Quality
  • Weather variables
  • Wheat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


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