The 2012 corn crop delivered many of the problems that were foreseen throughout last year’s growing season. Decreased yields, variable quality and mycotoxins have affected livestock production throughout North America. However, this crop may still be causing trouble as we dig deeper into the storage bins.

Alltech’s 37+ Program surveyed 329 samples from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2012. Only one percent of the samples analyzed were free of mycotoxin contamination; 94% were contaminated with two to 10 mycotoxins. In corn grain samples, 95% contained fumonisin and 48% contained deoxynivalenol or DON. In corn silage, 90% contained fumonisin and 84% contained DON. The distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) samples contained 100% of both fumonisin and DON. In all samples tested, aflatoxin was present in 18%.

“The ‘take home’ out of this data set is that the 2012 corn crop is widely contaminated with multiple mycotoxins that can decrease animal performance and health,” says Max Hawkins, Alltech Myctoxin Management Team.  “However, as aflatoxins’ allowable level in feed and its metabolite M1 in milk are legislated, its presence is not as widespread and is more regionalized.”

According to Hawkins, 37+ analyses conducted since Jan.1 have shown similar results but with an interesting new finding. The numbers of mycotoxins present are increasing.

“This increase in the total numbers of mycotoxins over time can be attributed to areas such as poor fermentation and inadequate packing or face management that can contribute to further mold growth and mycotoxin production,” Hawkins says.

At harvest time, it was recommended that mycotoxin- contaminated grain be dried to 14% moisture within 24 to 48 hours to stabilize mold growth and ensure adequate grain storage. By limiting mold growth, mycotoxin production can be stabilized, but any mycotoxins already present would remain.

According to Hawkins, as temperatures remained warm in the fall, many growers aerated the bins and discovered that the mold and mycotoxin levels increased rapidly.  As storage facilities have been emptied this spring, high levels of mycotoxins have been found in the lower levels of the facilities, where the fines and cracked kernels tend to concentrate.

Hawkins recommends these five tips for producers using the last of their 2012 crop:

  1.  Only run aeration fans during the coolest times of day or night. Hold grain at 50 degrees Fahrenheit or less and 14% moisture or less.
  2. Mold growth in storage is greater where there are leaks in facilities and where fines and damaged kernels are concentrated.
  3. The south side and tops of grain bins warm quicker as daytime temperatures begin to increase.
  4. New mold growth will increase temperature and moisture in surrounding grain.
  5. Continually monitor stored grain for temperature, moisture and mycotoxins.