Whether corn in southern Indiana truly didn't have vomitoxin problems associated with moldy corn, mostly linked to Gibberella in corn, or whether most of it was harvested and went to market before elevators and other industry people realized there was a serious problem brewing is a question that may never be answered. However, industry specialists are convinced that a large portion of the grain coming into elevators last fall was not adequately testing for vomitoxin. That's showing up now in some cases as elevators attempt to move the grain they hold. As the season has progressed and news about vomitoxin and potential problems ahs increased, more grain is being tested today, both coming into elevators and grain going out to feeders.
"Probably about 80% of the grain that farmers brought in wasn't adequately tested," says Cress Hizer, executive director for the organization made up of elevators and feed dealers in the state. "There wasn't an awareness in time of what the problem might be."
Part of that is because there haven't been widespread problems with vomitoxin, also known as DON, in Indiana in several decades in corn. Grain buyers have dealt with the problem in wheat, Hizer says, but not in corn for many years. They have dealt with aflatoxin, but that is a totally separate issue with separate rules.
"We'll need to beef up protocol and testing procedures after this experience, more than likely," Hizer says. "We'll definitely have to take a look at the entire discount system related to vomitoxin."
For now, Hizer believes there are four important questions facing farmers who still have grain on hands and the grain handling industry in dealing with the rest of the '09 crop in Indiana. Admittedly, northeast Indiana has the biggest problem, but he also acknowledges that there were pockets of vomitoxin problems caused by ear molds in other parts of the state as well.
"First, now we know it's here, so we need to check for it as grain comes in," he says. "Second, it's not clear how much of the grain still in farmer storage is actually infected with vomitoxin."
Based on what insurance agents are reporting, that varies by region, with the most concern coming from farmers in northeastern counties. Elsewhere, there are some cases but it may be a farmer with one bin out of 10 that he's worried about. This was a problem that definitely affected some fields more than others.
"Third, we've got the spring and summer warm-up coming," Hizer adds. "From what the specialists tell us, that's going to be a real concern. If farmers try to hold grain in storage on the farm, we could have more issues.
"Finally, we have concerns about the fungus that's left behind in the residue where corn was harvested. That's one seedsmen and agronomists will have to help farmers sort out."