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Mycotoxins may be back

Jeff Caldwell 02/12/2013 @ 11:51am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Mycotoxins were a big problem for a lot of corn farmers last year, and the infected grain that's in storage may not be done causing farmers headaches, especially now that temperatures are starting to rise in the nation's midsection.

Any live mold spores remaining in stored grain could begin aerobic activity and growth at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And that means any low levels of fungus like aflatoxin could reach economic threshold levels in short order, says University of Nebraska Extension specialist Tom Dorn.

"Ambient temperatures will be getting warmer and soon will be above 40 degrees," Dorn says. "If the fungal organism is one that produces mycotoxins, the level of mycotoxins in the grain can increase, which will likely result in greater dock when the grain is sold. The worst case would be if the grain were refused by the grain dealer or not approved for feeding to certain species or sizes of livestock."

If you've got aflatoxin, for example, experts say you can blend the grain with uninfected corn for livestock feed if it ends up below different thresholds (300 parts per billion for beef steers, for example).

Once that infected grain's gone, your work's not over, though. Make sure you take the time and energy to clean the bins that housed the fungus. It's not an easy task, but it will save a lot of headaches down the road with potential residual infections, Dorn says.

"It is important to thoroughly clean out bins once they are empty, including all grain and grain dust that could still contain molds and insects. When moldy grain has been removed from the bin, use a spray disinfectant on all interior surfaces to kill mold spores," he says. "A solution of 1 gallon of 5.25% household laundry bleach and 20 gallons of water should work well. Several days after applying the bleach, rinse it off so as not to corrode galvanized metal.

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