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Aflatoxin Worries Grow as Harvest Begins

Aflatoxin Worries Grow as Harvest Begins

Iowa starts testing milk for aflatoxin, and grain elevators use eagle eye to test incoming crop.

News last week that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship would require aflatoxin screening and testing of milk received in Iowa starting last Friday sends a signal about the 2012 harvest. The Iowa testing is to continue indefinitely, according to a press statement.

In that Iowa order, all milk processors will screen Grade A and Grade B farm bulk milk pickup tankers and farm can milk loads on a weekly basis.

NEW HARVEST WORRY: Talk of aflatoxin-tainted corn heating up as combines roll in earnest.

Aflatoxin can be found in drought-stressed corn, and this latest news is just one more blow to crop producers during what many call the worst drought since the 1950s. Aflatoxin concerns have risen considerably as combines have started to roll. Small elevators are getting word across the Corn Belt from terminal elevators that are testing and if they find aflatoxin above 10 ppb, they charge added fees. Higher detects result in dumped, unusable grain.

The ethanol industry is also concerned since dried distillers grains with solubles are a key income source, and aflatoxin tainted corn can push values of the contamination much higher in this feed byproduct.

The presence of Aspergillus fungus in corn is an early sign that aflatoxin might be present, but field experts offer tips on how best to manage corn if you think you may have a problem. Here are some tips from Iowa State University plant pathologist Alison Roberts.

Farm Progress started covering this concern on a local level early in August, you can check out this list of restrictions for grains that may be contaminated and some key tactics to consider.

The food industry will be on the watch for aflatoxin, and the Iowa release detailing its testing program notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has established guidelines for acceptable aflatoxin levels. Concentrations have to be below 20 ppb if they'll be used for human consumption. Corn containing aflatoxin at 100 ppb or less can be used to feed breeding cattle, swine and mature poultry.

Iowa State University has outlined a number of drought strategies at its Dealing with Disasters page, including aflatoxin insight. Keeping tabs on this latest growing concern that results from the 2012 Drought will require top management for grain producers and their buyers. Aflatoxin contamination is a common side effect of drought, and given this year's doozy, it means tighter management for corn harvest than ever before.

TAGS: Regulatory
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