Health & Environment

Concerns Over Fumonisin Contamination In Corn Has Producers Looking For Answers

October 4, 2017

Dr. Jourdan Bell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist in Amarillo, examines corn for Fusarium fungi. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Dr. Tom Isakeit)
Dr. Jourdan Bell, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist in Amarillo, examines corn for Fusarium fungi. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Dr. Tom Isakeit)
By Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M University AgriLife

Corn farmers worried about fumonisin contamination in their fields need to immediately contact their crop insurance agent – that was the message from two emergency meetings held Sept. 27 in the Texas High Plains.

The potential for fumonisin contamination in corn fields throughout the region prompted about 700 farmers, crop consultants, insurance agents and end-users to pack Dimmitt and Dumas meetings conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Corn Producers.

More than 50 percent of the corn grown in Texas comes from the High Plains region. The primary market for this corn is the cattle feeding industry, and according to the latest “The Impact of Agribusiness Texas High Plains,” it accounts for about $635 million in annual sales in the region.

Fumonisins are toxins produced by two species of Fusarium fungi, according to Dr. Tom Isakeit, AgriLife Extension plant pathologist, College Station. Fumonisins are mycotoxins that can cause illnesses in livestock, especially horses, so there are regulatory limits to the amounts a load of corn can contain.

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Isakeit explained that not all molds growing on ears produce mycotoxins. The Fusarium fungi that produce fumonisin can be visible as a dull white coloration of the kernels, but this appearance doesn’t mean the toxin is present. The only way to determine that is with a chemical test of harvested grain.

And therein lies the concern producers expressed at the meetings. Who should test the corn? When? Where? How? Are all tests the same? And, why are farmers being discounted so heavily compared to previous years?

There are producer concerns with some elevator tests and the resulting discounts they are taking to the value of their corn, said Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Amarillo. Some farmers have even had loads rejected.

So far, only the early maturing corn has been harvested, and it is estimated more than 60 percent of the crop is still in the field, Bell said. The meetings were conducted to provide producers information about fumonisin and Fusarium identification in the field, as well as notify producers to act now while they have an opportunity to deal with any potential issues in later-maturing corn.

“Producers need to evaluate their fields, and if they have a concern, contact their insurance agent,” Bell said. “The meetings also provided the opportunity to address testing concerns and discuss standardization in sampling and testing procedures.”


Continue reading this story by Kay Ledbetter originally appeared in AgriLife Today.

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