The good news is that in the Deep South and even into southern Illinois where some corn harvest has started, aflatoxin levels are low so far in grain that has been tested. The bad news is based upon history, dry, stress years are notorious for corn developing problems with aflatoxin.
The toxin is produced by a fungus that begins growing on kernels, typically while corn is still in the field. Aflatoxin is particularly troublesome because it has a detrimental effect upon livestock. Hogs are usually impacted the worst, and will go off feed and develop performance issues. Other species may also be affected.
The reason to watch for aflatoxin if you have stressed fields which will trigger cop insurance payments is because of how federally-backed crop insurance deals with aflatoxin issues. Doug Emery, of Diversified Services, says that according to the rules of the Risk Management Agency, once the corn hits the bin, the crop is no longer insured. What happens in the bin is at your risk.
RMA is part of USDA. It is the federal entity that underwrites crop insurance policies across the country for companies like Diversified Services.
The problem with aflatoxin is that if corn isn't handled properly, it can continue to grow and increase to higher levels within the bin. That damage and resulting dock isn't covered by crop insurance.
What you need to do if you suspect problems or begin hearing about aflatoxin problems in your area is contact your crop insurance agent, he notes. Elevators will likely be checking for aflatoxin. They will either reject the load or assess a stiff dock, because it affects what it can do with the corn.
Most elevators have a preset limit as to how much aflatoxin it takes to trigger the reject or dock level,. If it's food grade corn, aflatoxin is likely to trigger that action faster. While the old standby was black light testing, many elevators today have immunoassay strips. Some even have scanners that will read the strips and determine the exact level in the sample.
However, for crop insurance purposes, sampled must b e sent to a federally accredited lab. The bottom line it to stay ahead and out in front of potential problems, rather than finding out after your corn is binned that there is a problem.