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.
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.
In spite of green stems and even leaves on some plants, soybeans are surprisingly drier than what you may think. I’ve been hearing reports of soybeans in the 7-10% moisture range already in spite of there also being some “lima beans” along with the low moisture beans at harvest.
Harvesting soybeans at 13% moisture is a combination of skill and maybe some luck. Why is 13% so critical? A standard bushel of soybeans weighs 60 lbs. and is 13% moisture. Often beans are delivered to the buyer at lower moisture than 13%. The difference between actual and desired moisture content will result in lost revenue to the grain producer. Here’s how the loss works based on UNL Extension’s “10 Easy Ways to boost profits up to $20/acre”:
- Since 13 percent of the weight is water, only 87 percent is dry matter. The dry matter in a standard bushel is 52.2 pounds and the remaining 7.8 pounds is water.
- If this bushel of soybeans is kept in an open basket and some moisture is allowed to evaporate, the net weight of beans would decrease. If the dry matter weight remains unchanged at the standard 52.2 pounds, the wet basis weight for any moisture content can be calculated.
- For example, a standard bushel at 13 percent moisture weighs 60 pounds. If the moisture content were reduced to 11 percent (89 percent dry matter), the wet basis weight per bushel of the soybeans would be 52.2 pounds of dry matter divided by .89=58.65 pounds. (1.35 pounds less than the standard 60 lb. weight of beans initially placed in the basket). For each 52.2 pounds of dry matter delivered at 11 percent moisture, you miss an opportunity to sell 1.35 pounds of water.
- It is standard practice for buyers to assume 60 pounds of soybeans constitutes a bushel when soybeans are at or below 13 percent moisture. When the beans are below 13 percent, the difference in water content is made up for by an equal number of pounds (wet basis) of soybeans.
- Assuming a 60 bushel per acre yield and selling price of $8.50 per bushel, the potential extra profit the producer could realize if the beans are harvested at 13 percent moisture instead of 11 percent is $11.48 per acre.
Rapid dry-down and difficulty harvesting green stems and pods are the most common reasons for harvesting at lower than standard moisture. The following practices can help producers maintain quality and expected moisture content.
- Adjust harvest practices. When harvesting tough or green stems, make combine adjustments and operate at slower speeds.
- Begin harvesting at 14 percent moisture. Try harvesting when some of the leaves are still dry on the plant; the beans may be drier than you think. Soybeans are fully mature and have stopped accumulating dry matter when 95 percent of the pods are at their mature tan color.
- Plan planting dates and variety selection to spread out plant maturity and harvest.
- Avoid harvest losses from shattering. Four to five beans on the ground per square foot can add up to one bushel per acre loss. Harvest at a slow pace and make adjustments to the combine to match conditions several times a day as conditions change.
Last week I had a neat experience in speaking to a group of agronomists from China about Extension. They are in the U.S. for 10 days and are interested in high yield corn production. I scrapped the presentation I had been asked to present as they had so many questions about our Extension system. So we started in a discussion…how do we set up a field day/meeting in Extension? How do we let farmers know about them? How do we decide what to talk about? Thus ensued a discussion of farming in China vs. farming in Nebraska. In China, many of the fields are hand-planted and less than 10% of their farmers have internet connectivity. In Nebraska, we’re seeing the trend of larger equipment and the majority of our farmers are connected to the internet. I suggested that they start with field days and meetings which shared the research-based information they are generating at their research sites. Advertise to farmers via word of mouth, radio, newspapers, direct mailings, or brochures/flyers left at common gathering spots. Once they have the people at the meetings, they can follow up with a survey to determine needs assessment for what the farmers would like to know more about in the future to determine future meeting topics.
Extension in Nebraska has greatly changed in my 7 years regarding how we share information. We are challenged today to reach a broad audience who on one hand primarily finds information from newspapers to the other hand, primarily from the Web-and everywhere in between! This year, I’ve worked at trying to share the same information 7 different ways to reach a broader audience. I showed the agronomists from China the impact of the Web and social media in sharing information in Nebraska. They were amazed!
We then went on a tour where they were able to view harvest. It was fascinating watching them excitedly discuss and question no-till farming as they were digging through residue and in the soil. They also predicted corn yields by measuring and counting and comparing that to the combine yield monitor. Some enjoyed getting into the combines and learning about the precision ag tools available to farmers. It was a neat experience and I learned much from our visitors as well!