Monthly Archives: September 2013
Feeding Storm Damaged Corn; a Few Thoughts from a Veterinarian
With the recent sprouting of grain on the ears and with more producers now learning what percent loss their crop insurance is determining for each field, I felt it would be good to talk about feeding this damaged grain again. This post is written by Dr. Dee Griffin, DVM at UNL’s Great Plains Veterinary Education Center at Clay Center. I appreciate Dee’s willingness to provide this information from a Veterinarian’s perspective.
Also a note, to date we have not found Aspergillus in our hail damaged fields. The grain molds we are seeing are Diplodia and Fusarium. Diplodia does not have the potential to produce mycotoxins. Fusarium has the potential of producing fumonisin, vomitoxin, or DON. You can bring forage samples to Husker Harvest Days this coming week to the IANR building and have them tested that day for nitrates for free if you wish.
Dr. Griffin writes: Any time a growing grain producing plant is damaged there is a potential for changes in the plant or grain on the plant contaminated with fungus/molds to grow. The most common change in stressed plants is the accumulation of nitrates. Aspergillus or Fusarium will be the most likely fungi to be contaminating harvested grain from storm damaged corn in our area.
It is really important to know that most molds are not toxic. Therefore just because mold growth is observed doesn’t mean the feedstuff will harm livestock. Even though a mold may not be toxic it can still cause feed refusal. Not all livestock species are equally sensitive to mold contamination and not all production groups are equally sensitive. For instance pregnant and young animals are more sensitive than mature non-pregnant animals.
Nitrate accumulation in stressed plants can cause be harmless or cause serious harm depending on:
- the level of nitrate in the feed harvested from stressed plants,
- on the life stage of the animal,
- and on the species of animal.
Nitrates accumulate in the forage portion of the plant, so nitrates are not a concern in grain harvested from stressed plants. Additionally, it is important to know nitrate levels will always be highest in the bottom part of the plant and lowest in the top foliage. Nitrate testing is simple and reasonable quick. Your local UNL Extension Educator can help you locate the nearest facility that does forage nitrate testing.
Feed containing nitrate levels less than (<) 1000 parts per million (ppm) seldom are associated with an animal health concern. Feed containing nitrate levels greater than (>) 1000 ppm may be a concern in younger animals and levels >2000 ppm should not be fed to pregnant cattle. Feeder cattle are reasonably resistant to nitrates but feeds containing >4000 ppm should not be fed to any animals.
Molds in corn grain of concern could be either Aspergillus or Fusarium. Your UNL Extension Educator can be a great help in identifying mold growing on ears of your storm damaged corn before the grain is harvested. Both of these fungi are potentially dangerous when found in livestock feed. Toxins produced by molds are extremely stable, therefore if a significant level is found, the level will not decrease over time. Silage produced from damaged plants and grain harvested from mold infested plants is potentially a problem.
Good silage management is critical to lessen the likely hood of continued mold growth after ensiling. Proper packing to remove oxygen and improve fermentation which ensures the pH will be below 4.5 is critical.
You can’t look at harvested grains from storm damaged fields and visually identify mycotoxins. Corn grain from storm damaged fields can … and mostly likely should … be tested for mycotoxins before feeding to livestock. Your local UNL Extension Educator, nutritionist or veterinarian can help with mycotoxin testing.
Proper sampling is crucial to getting reliable results back from the laboratory. A “grab sample” is not adequate. The sample submitted to the lab should be representative of the entire load, bin, pit or pile of feedstuff being evaluated.
The steps are simple
- If sampling a field before harvest, sample at least two dozen ears that appear to have mold growth and submit all the ears to the laboratory for mycotoxin evaluation
- If sampling after harvest, take multiple samples uniformly from throughout the silage or grain in question
- The sample should be taken from what would be used in a single load of feed
- That means, if five loads of feed could be made from a 50,000 lb semi-load of corn, collect not less than five samples from the semi-load of corn
- The sample should be based on sample volume not weight
- For instance, collect “coffee can” size samples
- Mix all the all samples together that were collected from the feed in question
- For instance, if 10 coffee can size samples were collected from across the face of a silage pit, pour all 10 samples onto a plastic sheet and thoroughly mix them together
- Next, collect a single sample from within the 10 mixed samples
- Submit the single sample to the laboratory
The laboratory results usually will provide some recommendations for how the feedstuff can be used. There is an old saying, “Dilution is the solution …” meaning in this consideration, that many feedstuffs that contain higher levels of mycotoxin than would be acceptable, might be usable if a sufficient amount of non-mycotoxin contaminated feedstuff is used to dilute the mycotoxin. Your UNL Extension Educator, nutritionist or veterinarian can help evaluate the possible uses of a damaged feedstuff containing unacceptable levels of a mycotoxin.
Sprouting Corn Kernels on Hail-Damaged Ears
The latest event in the Clay County storm occurring August 1st has become germination of “good” kernels left on the ears that have been damaged by hail. This event of kernel germination prior to harvest is also called “vivipary”.
Typically we wouldn’t see this occur before black layer because of the hormonal balance within the kernels-particularly the balance between gibberellin and abscisic acid. According to a study by White, et. al (2000), Gibberellin production with the lack of ABA allowed for kernel germination while less Gibberellin and more ABA deterred kernel germination. At full maturity, very little ABA is left in the kernel (in both corn and soybeans) which allows them to germinate in correct conditions after harvest. But this can also allow for sprouting in the ear after black layer when corn is still drying down, particularly in tight-husked, upright ears with conditions of high humidity or rain after black layer. Sprouting under those conditions typically occurs at the base of the ear first.
Why are kernels sprouting before we’ve reached black layer?
That’s a good question. I haven’t found much in the way of scientific explanation other than the thought that the hormonal balance of the kernels can be altered by physical damage from hail, bird feeding, and grain mold. Some ear mold fungi also produce gibberellic acid which can lead to a hormonal balance shift in these ears stimulating germination. I also haven’t observed that this is hybrid-dependent and am finding as much as 25-50% sprouted ears in various areas of hail-damaged fields.
What can you do now?
Make sure your crop insurance adjuster is aware of the situation and make sure to submit samples for kernel damage due to mold, sprouting, and check for mycotoxins prior to harvest.
The local co-op may or may not choose to accept the load depending on percent damage and the standards they need to follow. If the load is rejected, contact your crop insurance agent to determine your next step. DO NOT bin the grain on your farm until you contact your insurance agent as they have specific rules that need to be followed in the case of grain rejected due to mycotoxins or kernel damage from storms.
Sprouted kernels lead to higher kernel damage and more fines in a load. Keys for harvest will include harvesting early, getting corn dried down to 14%, potentially drying at a high temperature to kill the sprout, screening out fines, and monitoring stored grain closely for hot spots, mold, and additional sprouting grain.
You can also choose not to take it to grain right now, and honestly, that may be the best option for several of the hail-damaged fields. Silage is still an option and it would be recommended to sample the green chop going into the silage pit for potential mycotoxins. Mycotoxin level does not change with fermentation so cattle feeders would have a good idea of any mycotoxin levels if sampling was done in this manner. See this post for additional information on making silage.
Du-Pont Pioneer. (2007). Field Facts: Pre-mature Germination of Corn Kernels.
Nielsen, R.L. (2012). Premature Corn Kernel Sprouting (aka Vivipary). Corny News Network, Purdue University.
White et. al. (2000). Gibberellins and Seed Development in Maize. II. Gibberellin Synthesis Inhibition Enhances Abscisic Acid Signaling in Cultured Embryos. Plant Physiology Vol. 122 no. 4 pg. 1089-1098.
Wiebold, B. (2009). Wet Weather Can Cause Seeds to Sprout before Harvest. Integrated Pest & Crop Management Newsletter, Univ of Missouri.