How to store grain and reduce mycotoxin risks

Now that it’s April, farmers in the Northern Hemisphere are shaking off the dregs of winter and preparing for a busy spring. And with the planting, growing and harvesting seasons come the concern for mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins are nasty toxins produced by the mold growing on a wide variety of agricultural crops. When consumed by humans or animals, they can have numerous detrimental health effects. Their production is influenced by weather, crop variety and rotation, tilling practices, planting and harvesting time and also, the cleanliness of storage.

To keep as much of the harvest safe as possible, Crop Protection Network recommends harvesting diseased grain first, so that the fungi that might be producing mycotoxins can’t grow and spread, even after the crop has reached maturity.

The network also suggests drying mycotoxin-affected grain immediately using a fast, high-temperature method to about 15% moisture (less than 13% for summer storage). In a truck or bin, wet grain degrades quickly, increasing mycotoxin levels. But grain stored in low moisture at around 55°F can slow mold growth and prevent more mycotoxins from being produced.

The network also says damaged kernels, which inhibit proper airflow in storage, be removed and the grain be cleaned before being stored or sold — and also that grain bins frequently be cleaned and checked for any problems with the structural integrity that might allow for leaks, improper drying or airflow, insect activity, or greater fungal growth.

How to test for mycotoxins

Testing for mycotoxins has become an important regulatory standard throughout the food and feed production process; from farmers, to grain elevators, to the countless facilities producing finished products.

One quick and easy testing method is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). This antibody-based method provides fully quantitative results not only for mycotoxins, but also for other risks, such as food allergens and drug residues. These tests are extremely easy to perform and provide results in only minutes.

These tests can give both screening and quantitative results, and can be cheaper than sourcing a third party facility for analytical testing methods. Rapid testing solutions allow safety experts to save time, reduce costs and keep testing within their own facilities.

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

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