Aflatoxin reports highlight need for careful grain storage

Much of the U.S. and Europe have experienced drought and high temperatures this crop season, and now we’re seeing the effects of that in mycotoxin development.

Reports are rolling in of the carcinogenic mycotoxin aflatoxin, which is naturally created by Aspergillus, a fungus that thrives in drought conditions.

“Aflatoxin has showed its dirty face,” Oklahoma farmer Zack Rendel told AgFax. “We thought we were doing really good — decent looking corn that isn’t showing much drought stress. But everybody is starting to have issues around here.”

This week, Neogen’s Monday Mycotoxin and Crop Report covered three new aflatoxin reports in corn, coming from Oklahoma, Missouri and Iowa. Texas, which previously had reports of aflatoxin, saw increased values in the latest reports: greater than 700 parts per billion — 35 times the maximum allowable amount in human food.

Reducing risks

If Aspergillus, a greenish colored mold, has already hit crops, there are steps that can be taken in storage to help prevent its growth and reduce the risks that it will produce enough aflatoxin to surpass regulatory levels.

  • The Crop Protection Network recommends harvesting moldy grain first, so that the fungi that might be producing mycotoxins can’t grow and spread, even after the crop has reached maturity.
  • Grain stored in low moisture at around 55°F can slow mold growth, preventing more mycotoxins from being produced.
  • Mycotoxin-affected grain should be dried immediately using a fast, high-temperature method to about 15% moisture (less than 13% for summer storage).
  • Adequate ventilation is important for maintaining proper grain temperature and preventing high humidity, which fosters mold and fungi growth.
  • Storage containers should be checked for leaks, to prevent excess moisture from entering the container.
  • Regular testing for mycotoxins is necessary in storage, no matter which grain storage method you use.

Neogen offers rapid tests to detect mycotoxins, including aflatoxin, DON, fumonisin, ochratoxin, T-2/HT-2 and zearalenone.

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