Nutritionist > Equine

Factors affecting mycotoxin formation in the field
As temperature and moisture levels are key factors for fungal growth and subsequent mycotoxin production, the climate plays a key role in the occurrence of mycotoxins. Crop surveys show large variations in contamination levels from one year to another due to varying climatic conditions. Mycotoxins are generally very stable and will persist during storage, as they are independent of storage conditions. As no efficient decontamination procedures are available today, most of the mycotoxins that are present at the time of harvest in a crop will reach the eventual horses’ diet during feeding.

Fusarium mycotoxins (zearalenone, trichothecenes, fumonisin, etc) are produced mainly during the field (cultivation) phase. Aspergillus and Penicillium mycotoxins (aflatoxin, ochratoxin, etc) are produced, for the most part, during storage.

Main factors influencing mycotoxin production are:

  • Intrinsic factors within the fungi
  • The ability of fungi to generate toxins which can vary
  • The fungal species which determines the type of mycotoxin produced
  • The initial contamination level which influences the amount of mycotoxins produced (the more moulds, the greater the potential for higher mycotoxin levels)
  • Environmental conditions. These factors determine fungal growth and therefore mycotoxin production
  • Biological factors, such as insects, either as vectors of fungal spores or as vectors responsible for mechanical damage to the grain
To prevent mycotoxin contamination of feedstuffs it is necessary to avoid fungal growth.  Fungi need water, oxygen, time and appropriate temperature (variable with fungal species; in general, higher temperatures promote Aspergillus, lower temperatures promote Fusarium). One of the common features of fungal species in drier feedstuffs is their ability to form and disperse spores. It is important to note that environmental and other conditions have to be right for those fungi able to do so, to produce mycotoxins. Not all fungi produce mycotoxins.



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