One farmer who reported in recently said his original goal was to keep his corn until May, often a time of higher prices seasonally. But when he heard about all the mold problems and knowing he had some issues, although not severe, he decided to sell. His bins were empty by April 1.
Richard Stroshine would likely consider that a good move. The Purdue University grain quality specialist noted as early as last October that anyone harvesting corn with a mold problem should forget about long-term storage on this year's crop. He warned that bad things could happen if they tried to take the corn into warmer months.
Grain specialists in Ohio are echoing the same comments. In addition, they're adding some new cautions and advice for farmers who dealt with mycotoxins and moldy grain this past season. These new comments are geared toward preventing future problems, not only in corn but potentially in other crops. The same fungus that causes ear mold in corn can cause problems in other field crops.
Pierce Paul, a pathologist at Ohio State University, says to avoid the temptation of spreading moldy grain you can't sell out on a field. "The vomitoxin isn't a problem," he says. "But if there is active fungi on the kernels in the fields, you run the risk of spreading inoculum to this year's crop," he says.
The same fungus that can cause stalk rot and ear rot in corn can cause head scab in wheat. So certainly don't dispose of nay infected grain anywhere near a growing wheat field, he adds. The bottom line is that spreading out moldy grain in a field just increases the chances of spreading spores and causing additional disease problems.
Sorry, your job isn't even finished once you have the moldy grain out of the bin and either sold or discarded properly, Paul says. He recommends washing and scraping the inside of bins to get them clean, and eliminating as much of the fungus as possible. It's also important to get rid of any fines because the level of fungus may be higher in them than in the grain itself.
It's not the threat of mycotoxin lingering you should worry about, Paul says. That won't happen as long as the fungus is completely eliminated.
Anne Dorrance, also a plant pathologist at Ohio State, says it's possible that if the inoculum is really high, this is the same fungus can affect soybean seedlings. Her solution is either applying a seed treatment or using management practices to reduce the inoculum in fields that were badly infected. Those could include chopping stalks or covering the residue with soil.