Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - A fungus that causes “vomitoxin” has been found in some U.S. corn harvested last year. The plant toxin affects the health of livestock and can also make humans and pets fall ill.
The problem, stemming from heavy rain before and during the 2016 harvest, prompted farmers to store wet grain. The issue was compounded by farmers and grain elevators storing corn on the ground and other improvised spaces, sometimes covering the grain piles with plastic tarps.
The spread of vomitoxin is concentrated in Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and parts of Iowa and Michigan, and its full impact is not yet known. In a "considerable" share of corn crops tested in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana since last fall's harvest, the vomitoxin levels have tested high enough to be considered too toxic for humans, pets, hogs, chickens and dairy cattle.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows vomitoxin levels of up to 1 part per million (ppm) in human and pet foods and recommends levels under 5 ppm in grain for hogs, 10 ppm for chickens and dairy cattle. Beef cattle can withstand toxin levels up to 30 ppm.
Ethanol makers already are also feeling the impact. A byproduct of ethanol production is DDGS (distillers dried grains), which is sold as animal feed. The refining process triples the concentration of mycotoxins, making the feed byproduct less attractive.
The up-side of this — some U.S. farmers with clean corn are reaping a price bump. One ethanol plant is offering grain sellers a 10-cent per bushel premium for corn containing less than one ppm of vomitoxin.
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