Wheat harvest continues as do mycotoxin concerns

3-28-14 wheat_fieldWhile warmer, drier weather has allowed the hard red winter wheat harvest to gain considerable momentum after a slow start, concerns about the soft red winter wheat crop have been mounting as moisture takes a tool on both harvest progress and milling quality.

According to a recent article, although the soft red winter harvest did recently picked up, it is still lagging behind the normal pace. But, because of the recent pick up, Chicago soft red winter wheat prices have traded above the nearby Kansas City hard red winter wheat prices since June 26. Traditionally, Kansas City prices are typically well above Chicago values and were $1.22/bushel above Chicago futures at the same time last year.

Additionally, some elevator and milling sources in the region tell a sobering story of sprout damage and elevated vomitoxin levels. Also known as DON, vomitoxin is the single biggest concern for wheat growers and can cause extreme losses for farmers due to rejected crop.

Michigan State University Extension recommends several measures growers can take where they suspect they may have high DON levels. The measures are directed at reducing the amount of shrunken, scabby kernels and chaff from the load as this is where the highest levels of DON are found.

  • Maximize threshing efficiency by going through the machine to make appropriate adjustments. Operators would do well to revisit the operator manual or an equipment representative to assure optimal settings, particularly related to the concaves.
  • Avoid overworking the combine as it will decrease threshing efficiency and, again, result in more chaff in the load. Growers should avoid the temptation to increase ground speed.
  • Increase the combine’s fan speed beyond the default setting to help minimize light material (shrunken kernels and chaff) when entering a new field. If testing confirms low DON levels, return to normal fan speeds to avoid blowing out healthy kernels.
  • Harvest and load areas of the field having greater scab symptoms separately. Unless a grower has scouted and knows differently, the grain from the field perimeter, especially along wooded fence rows and headlands, should be loaded, delivered and tested separately from the main field. High testing wheat to be stored on-farm should be segregated from low-test wheat if possible.
  • Harvest each wheat field as soon as possible. This might mean starting when the grain is 16% to 22% moisture depending on variety and combine. Again, this measure can be relaxed somewhat once it is determined the field’s DON levels are low.
  • Dry grain as soon as possible as DON is thought to be able to develop in grain having moisture contents as low as 18%.

To test your end product, Neogen offers the most comprehensive range of mycotoxin test kits that detect DON and the other major mycotoxins. For more information, click here.

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