By Keith Currie
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
ONTARIO — As Ontario’s fall harvest continues, corn quality and the threat of moulds and mycotoxins have become a serious concern across the province. Elevated levels of vomitoxin (DON) in this year’s corn crop has growers concerned about finding a market for their grain, and in some cases, figuring out how to safely dispose of crops that cannot be marketed.
Mycotoxins and DON can cause serious health threats to livestock when ingested at concentrated levels. DON can also pose a serious health threat to farmers working with the infected grain if the mould is inhaled. Early field reports across the province are indicating higher than expected levels of DON and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) reminds all farmers to work safely during the busy harvest season, especially when dealing with DON-infected corn.
With higher levels of DON reported, this is the year to scout fields and sample grain. If you are concerned about a field, collect a sample and have it tested for mycotoxins before harvesting, storing or feeding to livestock. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) also recommends harvesting and drying corn as quickly as possible, especially susceptible hybrids. Leaving diseased corn in the field allows the fungi to keep growing, increasing the risk of mouldy kernels and mycotoxin contamination throughout the field. Mould and mycotoxin development stops when corn moisture is less than 15 percent.
Be safe when handling DON-infected corn because inhaling the fungi-derived poison can have serious health implications, restricting airways and proper lung function. Prevent exposure by using protective gloves and eye protection, wear a mask and only work in well-ventilated areas. The greatest risks of exposure can occur in semi-enclosed places like grain bins and the areas around operating combines and loading wagons.
Finding a market for corn with higher levels of DON is a problem. There are few options for disposal, but research and on-farm trials continue across the province. For more information visit omafra.gov.on.ca.
Any farmer who discovers DON in their crop is encouraged to call Agricorp as soon as possible at 1-888-247-4999. Agricorp can discuss the best practices for handling, sorting, and if necessary, destroying high DON corn, and review the coverage available to farmers experiencing losses due to DON. OFA will continue to work closely with Agricorp and the Grain Farmers of Ontario to assist farmers suffering losses from DON in anyway we can.