Front Plant Sci. 2022 Jul 12;13:940745. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2022.940745. eCollection 2022.
Brown rot fungi cause a type of wood decay characterized by carbohydrate degradation and lignin modification. The chemical and physical changes caused by brown rot are usually studied using bulk analytical methods, but these methods fail to consider local variations within the wood material. In this study we applied hyperspectral near infrared imaging to Scots pine sapwood samples exposed to the brown rot fungi Coniophora puteana and Rhodonia placenta to obtain position-resolved chemical information on the fungal degradative process. A stacked-sample decay test was used to create a succession of decay stages within the samples. The results showed that the key chemical changes associated with decay were the degradation of amorphous and crystalline carbohydrates and an increase in aromatic and carbonyl functionality in lignin. The position-resolved spectral data revealed that the fungi initiated degradation in earlywood, and that earlywood remained more extensively degraded than latewood even in advanced decay stages. Apart from differences in mass losses, the two fungi produced similar spectral changes in a similar spatial pattern. The results show that near infrared imaging is a useful tool for analyzing brown rot decayed wood and may be used to advance our understanding of fungal degradative processes.