Wet weather brings wheat harvest issues to forefront

wet wheat_blogMother Nature has not been very kind to several areas of the U.S., where wheat farmers in particular are continuing to deal with Fusarium head blight (FHB), caused by a fungus known as Fusarium graminearum, which attacks grain directly and is a result of wet weather conditions during the growing season.

FHB is a problem because once the grain or kernels of the crop are infected with the fungus, conditions are favorable for the mycotoxin known as vomitoxin, also referred to as deoxynivalenol (DON), to be produced. If this happens, significant problems can follow as DON contamination can lead to extreme losses for farmers due to rejected crop.

As explained in a recent article, in order for elevators, millers and other first purchasers to be certain of the level of DON that exists in a sample, testing is conducted and it is determined what market, if any, the wheat can be utilized. Human food products for example, must have only 1 part per million (ppm) or less DON to be considered safe for consumption, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. DON levels are reduced during the milling process allowing millers to accept wheat with 2 ppm, if wheat is over that threshold, however, another possible market for that wheat is animal feed.

As outlined by North Dakota State University, 10 ppm of DON is acceptable in grains and byproducts destined for ruminating beef and feedlot cattle older than four months and for poultry, providing that these ingredients don’t exceed 50% of their diet. Grains and grain byproducts destined for swine, providing that these ingredients don’t exceed 20% of their diet, are acceptable at 5 ppm. Grains and grain byproducts destined for all other animals, providing that these ingredients don’t exceed 40% of their diet, is also acceptable at 5 ppm.

Scab can also be an issue in seed as it oftentimes can affect seed germination, the article states. To earn the blue certified tag—which certifies that your seed is of top quality—wheat seed must germinate at or above the 90% rate.  Scab-infected kernels may not germinate at this rate as it depends upon the amount of infection.

Scabby kernels are also usually lighter in weight and can be cleaned out of the seed, causing higher seed clean-out rates and less seed available for sale. To help deal with this, seed treatment can work to improve germination on lightly infected kernels.  If the seed has died because of the infection, however, it cannot be brought back to life with any amount of seed treatment, the article explains.

Also covered in the article is the issue of sprouting, in which wet weather can speed up the process and reproduction on the wheat production cycle. Sometimes this can happen before harvest even begins and without any visible signs. This can then lead to problems in products that are made with the sprouted wheat and oftentimes cause variations in taste and appearance.

To check for sprouting, a falling number test should be utilized that determines the amount of starch present in a sample. Based on the reading which indicates that amount of starch, farmers can tell the degree to which their crop is sprouted. This test has led the industry away from visually inspecting for sprouting, and gives farmers a more accurate result. This test is especially important to be run during wet weather years, like many areas are currently experiencing.

For more information, click here.

Neogen offers the most comprehensive range of mycotoxin test kits to detect aflatoxin, aflatoxin M1, deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisin, ochratoxin, T-2/HT-2, and zearalenone. For more information, click here.

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