What do Mycotoxin Levels Mean?


Last week I was receiving text messages from a few of our farmers about corn harvest results from damaged corn.  Low levels of mycotoxins are being detected in samples thus far, thankfully.

A reminder, the presence of mold does not automatically mean a mycotoxin is present.  The fungi producing mold have the potential to produce mycotoxins.

A reminder, the presence of mold does not automatically mean a mycotoxin is present. The fungi producing mold have the potential to produce mycotoxins.

Here’s What the Numbers Mean…
For aflatoxin, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set a recommended limit of 20ppb (parts per billion) for dairy animals, 100 ppb for breeding animals, and 300 ppb for finishing animals.  To put this is simpler terms, a sample would need 20 affected kernels out of a billion kernels to be at the legal limit for dairy animals.  So far, most samples are coming up at 5-6ppb which is very low.

For fumonisin, 20ppm (parts per million) is the recommended limit set by FDA for swine, 30ppm for breeding animals, 60ppm for livestock for slaughter, and 100ppm for poultry for slaughter.  So, this would mean 20 affected kernels in a million kernels could cause a problem for swine.  Again, our levels are averaging closer to 5ppm right now which are low.

Deoxynivalenol (DON) also known as vomitoxin is another mycotoxin being tested from grain samples.  This mycotoxin causes reduced weight gain and suppresses animal feeding, especially in swine. Concentrations greater than 10ppm can result in livestock vomiting and totally refusing feed.  FDA has recommended that total feed levels of DON not exceed 5 ppm for cattle and chicken, and 1 ppm for swine.

It is very important to sample from several places in the grain to get an accurate sample for damage and mycotoxins. It is also very important that black light tests are not used to determine the presence or absence of mycotoxins.  Some of these mold fungi produce a compound that fluoresces under black light, but research has shown that this quality does not consistently predict the presence of mycotoxins (often provides false positives).  Finally, before any of your storm-damaged corn is put in a bin, call your insurance agent out to get a sample!

Protecting Your Health with a Mask

There is some great information from the University of Nebraska Med Center on what types of masks to use to protect your health from molds and potential mycotoxins.  Some people tend to have more sensitive immune and respiratory systems than others, so I’d highly recommend checking out these short videos.

About jenreesources

I'm the Crops and Water Extension Educator for York and Seward counties in Nebraska with a focus in irrigated crop production and plant pathology.

Posted on October 4, 2013, in Crop Updates, Diseases, Drought, Storm Damage and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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