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Author: Martin Minchin: Global Marketing Manager, Alltech Mycotoxin Management
Over the past few months, Alltech field teams have been actively working with their customers and partners to assess the mycotoxin risk attached to new crop grains and forages coming out of the 2022 harvest. Harvest analysis programs are being carried out across multiple regions globally, and the results of those analyses will provide feed and livestock producers with the most up-to-date and timely insights, empowering them as they make ingredient purchasing and animal nutrition decisions during the coming year. Depending on the region and the ingredients being assessed, the choice of test method could vary and includes options like:
Alltech 37+®: LCMS-MS-based testing that can identify up to 54 individual mycotoxins in grains, forages and finished feeds.
Alltech RAPIREAD®: Lateral flow-based testing that can detect the presence of six key mycotoxins in individual grains or forages.
To enhance the robustness of the mycotoxin testing program in Europe, Alltech has partnered with SGS, one of the world’s largest testing and certification bodies, to conduct mycotoxin analyses on corn samples in Central and Southeastern Europe.
As we often see, weather is typically the most dominant factor influencing mycotoxin contamination patterns, and with more and more extreme weather events occurring, producers must be more vigilant than ever.
The impact of drought once again dominated the harvest analysis in Europe, manifesting as significantly reduced yields and elevated levels of aflatoxins in corn and corn silage from the central and southern areas. In countries such as Hungary, Serbia and Romania, many corn samples exceeded the 20-ppb EU regulatory limit for animal feeds, posing a particular concern for dairy producers due to the risk of residue transfer in their milk supply. After several successive years of extreme heat across the continent, many producers are now wondering if this level of risk is the new normal.
Although 100% of wheat and barley samples contained mycotoxins, the levels of those mycotoxins were much lower than those found in corn. On average, wheat and barley samples contained 3.7 mycotoxins each. Forages such as corn silage and grass silage are universally higher-risk, driven by the presence of Penicillium toxins. Straw samples from Denmark were heavily contaminated with type-B trichothecenes, which is a concern for swine producers in particular, as straw is compulsory as a bedding material for pigs for welfare purposes. In dairy settings, straw is also often used in dry cow diets and as a starter feed for young calves.
Between corn silage and corn grain, over 400 new harvest samples have been tested in the U.S. The mycotoxin risk has generally tracked with the weather patterns; for instance, as conditions got wetter from the West to the East, the risk increased in parallel. Emerging mycotoxins and type-B trichothecenes dominated the silage samples. On average, each sample contained 7.3 mycotoxins, and when Alltech’s Risk Equivalent Quantity (REQ)* is applied, the overall risk is moderate for dairy and beef animals. Corn samples have contained similar mycotoxin profiles, with the overall REQ being deemed higher for many animal groups. In corn, the majority of the risk coming is coming from DON, with average levels of almost 1,700 ppb.
Pets have been included in the assessment for the first time this year, and a higher risk has been noted for this group. An interesting insight provided by the U.S. data involves the mycotoxin levels in samples taken at different times during the harvest. The average level of DON doubled in samples tested from harvested grain from November compared to grain that was harvested and tested in October. With this in mind, knowing when corn was harvested could prove extremely useful when deciding about the purchase of specific ingredients or implementation of mycotoxin screening programs over the coming months.
After successive years of poor yields, Canada needed a good harvest, and 2022 delivered — even being described as a ‘’bin buster’’ by some. This year’s Canadian harvest program was a ONE Alltech collaboration, involving Alltech teams in each province, as well as the Alltech Masterfeeds feed mill network and Stratford Agri Analysis in Ontario. With this approach, over 800 samples of grains and forages were tested. DON, zearalenone and T-2/HT-2 have been the most detected toxins in Canada, with some regions also finding aflatoxin in their forages. Similar to other regions, wheat and barley samples have shown a lower occurrence of mycotoxins, but where present, DON and zearalenone have been seen at levels that pose a risk, particularly for pigs. Corn in Manitoba had a 50% occurrence of zearalenone, while in Ontario, there was an 85% occurrence of DON, with the average levels deemed high. In forages such as barley silage and corn silage, a high mycotoxin occurrence is common, with regions like Ontario and Quebec also suffering higher average concentrations of DON (1,846 to 1,992 ppb, on average, with a maximum of 10,399 ppb).
A year that promised so much for Indian corn producers turned out to be much the opposite when crops began to be harvested. Fertilizer shortages, extreme rainfall and pest damage all played a role in driving down the yield and quality of both the earlier and later harvests (Rabi and Kharif).
The Alltech India team takes a unique approach to their harvest analysis, travelling through the key grain-growing regions to interview crop producers, take grain samples and visit the trading centers (Mundees). In addition to mycotoxin testing, the team also conducted assessments of mold, protein, moisture and broken grains. For both the Rabi and Kharif harvests, over 80% of samples exceeded the desired mold count. These high mold levels are reflected in the subsequent results of the mycotoxin analysis. Using Alltech RAPIREAD® to analyze the corn, the primary toxins of concern are aflatoxins, DON and zearalenone. Each of the corn samples assessed contained multiple mycotoxins, and the overall REQ for poultry layers is moderate in corn from both harvests.
Favorable conditions throughout the growing season delivered high yields in Southern and Western Australia, the second highest on record. Unfortunately, in Eastern states, a wet finish with late rains and floods, accompanied with cool temperatures, resulted in widespread crop losses, low protein and low-test weights in the harvested crops.
High moisture grains are posing a risk for increased levels of mold growth during storage and mycotoxin readings of zearalenone, DON and aflatoxin at the time of harvest are notably higher compared to 2021. Flooding has significantly reduced hay production and delayed the start of summer crop planting. Excessive moisture has also resulted in low quality hay, and increased the threat of mycotoxins, most notably zearalenone. There is a lot of visible mold and musty smells in both hays and silages, however, even in hay and silage with no obvious visible signs of mold, higher levels of mycotoxins have been detected, emphasising the need for a robust mycotoxin testing program.
Asia and the risk from imported grains
As reported in Alltech’s annual Global Feed Survey, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region continues to show the largest year-on-year increase in compound feed production. To produce almost half a billion metric tons of feed, large amounts of raw materials are imported from Europe, North America and Latin America. However, long-distance shipping and variable storage conditions only serve to heighten the mycotoxin risk in imported grains. With this in mind, Asian feed producers should seek to understand mycotoxin contamination patterns in the country of origin of imported grains while also ensuring that sufficient quality control programs are in place when ingredients are being brought into the feed production process.
The mycotoxin challenge doesn’t end here
Mycotoxins don’t stop presenting a challenge after harvest, and as we have continually seen, grains and forages that come out of storage post-harvest may have a very different mycotoxin profile than when they went into storage. This demonstrates the need for an ongoing mycotoxin control program. Equally, as global grain stocks remain tight, many producers are forced to turn to the use of feed byproducts, which typically pose a greater mycotoxin challenge and carry an increased risk.
If you would like more details on the harvest analysis results, please contact your local Alltech representative or visit knowmycotoxins.com.
REQ: A measurement of the cumulative impact of mycotoxins in reference to aflatoxin B