Over the past year, U.S. farmers and producers have experienced droughts, high rainfall, and other weather events affecting the corn harvest, making it more critical than ever to analyze mycotoxin risks across the nation.
The Alltech 2023 U.S. Harvest Analysis has collected and assessed almost 450 new-crop samples from across the U.S., and the results show regional variation in mycotoxin risk. Samples showed lower risk in the upper Midwest and higher risk in the East. A combination of drought and untimely rains led to much of the risk.
Certain species of molds produce mycotoxins and are a concern for livestock producers, as they can influence feed quality and subsequent animal health and performance.
The Alltech U.S. Harvest Analysis, a decade-long initiative, is a comprehensive step in understanding the complexities of new-crop quality, mycotoxin prevalence, and the threat that mycotoxins pose to animals and producers.
To determine the most accurate representation of mycotoxin risk across the U.S., samples are collected by Alltech representatives and sent to the Alltech 37+ laboratory at the company’s headquarters in Kentucky, which can detect up to 54 individual mycotoxins.
According to Dr. Max Hawkins, technical support manager with Alltech’s mycotoxin management team, the corn silage and corn grain crops for the U.S. in 2023 have been a “moving target” for mycotoxin risk.
“Drought in the Southwest and the Western Corn Belt created distinct fumonisin risks in this region, while further eastward, late-season rainfall created ideal conditions for Fusarium toxins such as type B trichothecenes to flourish,” he said.
Hawkins recommends routine monitoring of these ingredients during storage, noting, “Ingredients will rarely be in better condition than when they are harvested.”
Key insights from the Alltech 2023 U.S. Harvest Analysis
- Dry conditions in the West created more fumonisin risk, while the later, rain-affected harvest in the East resulted in higher levels of deoxynivalenol.
- In general, the mycotoxin challenge in corn grain and corn silage is lower in 2023 than in recent years. However, there are still pockets of higher risk in the Midwest and the South.
- This year, Iowa identified a surprisingly high risk of aflatoxin B1. Another surprising find was Penicillium in grains since they are typically a concern in forages.
- This year, a significant amount of corn was stored at 14 percent moisture. Monitoring corn coming out of storage will be crucial, as it may be at higher risk now than when it was first stored.
Mycotoxin levels continue to increase in the East and Midwest U.S., specifically for Fusarium mycotoxins such as deoxynivalenol (DON). Earlier harvest conditions and drier conditions in the West helped to create lower-risk conditions. However, producers there should be aware of a higher fumonisin risk.
More than 190 new-crop corn grain samples were analyzed this year, and results show an average of 4.4 mycotoxins per sample, with 87 percent of samples having multiple mycotoxins. Beyond the DON and fumonsin risks already described, another interesting finding was a high level of aflatoxin B1 identified in Iowa. Producers should be vigilant about testing their grains.
Early in the growing season, drought negatively affected corn silage in the West this harvest season. The stress of dry conditions followed by moisture allowed certain molds to flourish, particularly Fusarium molds. In the East, the risk was varied but overall higher. Feed and livestock producers are encouraged to continue to monitor and test silage in storage every 60 to 90 days. This will help inform them of the mycotoxin risk they face as the season progresses.
The Alltech 2023 U.S. Harvest Analysis demonstrates that mycotoxins are an ongoing, dynamic issue that livestock producers must manage. Although testing directly post-harvest provides an overview of regional contamination patterns, what happens before the animal receives the feed — including storage conditions post-harvest and feeding practices on-farm — can influence what the animal will be ingesting in terms of mycotoxins.
Producers should consider a routine testing program to manage best this ongoing challenge that can uncover the specific risks. With this information, informed choices about mitigation strategies necessary to support the animals’ health and performance can be made.
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Author: Heidi Crnkovic