September means fall, and fall means harvest. As this fall’s harvest inches ever closer, farmers are also keeping a closer eye on the quality of their crops. Preliminary summer testing revealed that the North American wheat crop for 2015 contained an average of 3.2 mycotoxins per sample.
At high levels, these mycotoxins can negatively impact animal health and productivity. For example cows may not gain weight or produce enough milk, or they may exhibit diarrhea or other digestive symptoms.
Critical factors for this mold growth include heavy rains, moderate temperatures, young plants, and crop stress from insects and storms.
Summer rainfalls throughout the midwest showed a correlation between rain levels and mycotoxin contamination in wheat testing from 2,000 to 12,000 parts per billion(ppb). A wet spring for the midwestern states caused late planting, with some acres not planted whatsoever, which made it all but impossible for farmers to spray pesticides or do post-planting field work. Wet soil also contributes to nitrogen loss in the crops. The persisting mold and mycotoxin problem depends largely on the weather for the upcoming month – a cool, wet September could lead to exponential mold growth.
At this stage of the game, farmers are advised to scout their fields for any mold issues on stalks and leaves as well as insect or weather damage. Experts also advise that farmers keep an eye on any field irregularities: excess rain can create ponds that drown out or stunt crop growth and change soil types across the field.
These crop differences in the same field end up in the same storage bin, which means they contaminate the entire crop. As soon as the crop is in the bin, moisture pockets can accelerate mold growth, which may end up producing mycotoxins and/or lowering the feed’s nutrient value.
The previously mentioned experts recommend that farmers take these extra steps to protect their crops against mold growth:
- Protect silos and storage bins against contaminants
- Package and cover grains properly
- Keep grains dry – no more than 14 percent moisture
- Utilize an appropriate mycotoxin management program
The conditions are ripe for mold growth and mycotoxin release in crops. Farmers, monitor the weather leading up to your harvest – you’ve still got some time until the 2015 crop gets harvested and stored, but it’s always best to be proactive.