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Check For Aflatoxin Before You Harvest

Check For Aflatoxin Before You Harvest
Concern about molds in corn persist.

The word from the countryside seems to be that there is some mold out there, but it's not a big problem—yet. Both agronomists and grain elevator managers think it could still be a major problem before the season is over. Dry years like this one favor the development of molds on ears, particularly Aspergillus mold. It produces aflatoxin, which can make livestock go off feed or become sick. There are also low levels allowed in grain going for human consumption, or into products that humans will use, such as corn starch.

UGLY SIGHT: Look for an olive-colored mold when looking for the mold that produces aflatoxin. (Photo: Purdue University)

Crop insurance agents and agronomists alike are recommending that you check your fields carefully before harvest. Pull back shucks and look for an olive-colored mold on the ear. This is the one that produces mycotoxins, including aflatoxin. If you don't find any, that's good news. If you do, you will likely want to have corn ears tested before you harvest.

For crop insurance purposes, most policies except GRIP policies account for grain quality. That means that if your corn is rejected or heavily docked due to aflatoxin, you can receive an allowance in your payment for it. The process is complicated, however. The key is it must be based on samples before the corn enters the bin. Once the corn is in the bin, insurance coverage on that crop from a crop insurance standpoint ceases. The reasoning is partly that corn can deteriorate in storage. If the corn isn't dried properly to stop the mold from growing, aflatoxin levels can increase dramatically in the bin under storage.

For insurance purposes, samples for aflatoxin testing must be sent to an approved lab. Consult your agent about the testing process. The cost of testing is your responsibility.

The other reason to check for aflatoxin before harvest is to make plans for keeping that grain separate from other grain. You may find the mold and toxin in some fields, but not others.

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