Our last article on Mycotoxins (cxn360.ca/blog/mycotoxins-in-feed-grain/) explored what mycotoxins are, how they form, how to manage them, and signs to watch for in livestock if this toxic substance is fed to them.
Today we delve deeper into proactively testing for mycotoxins and managing infected grain storage with Cotecna Inspection Business Development Manager Debbie Pankewich Jackson.
Pankewich Jackson has been involved with grain for many years, serving as one of the first female inspectors for the Canadian Grain Commission.
Prepping your Bin
Before a kernel of grain goes into the bin farmers need to make sure the bin is thoroughly clean.
Pankewich Jackson says this starts with sweeping and vacuuming the floor to ensure there’s no infested grain and then looking for cracks in the cement.
“If the rain gets in, the moisture gets in, and that’s when your storage could become a problem because of all the moisture that will get in your bin.”
This also goes for insects; she recommends that if there has been a problem in the past with insects, to use an insecticide approved for the type of grain intended for the bin before filling it with grain.
As mentioned in our last article, once mycotoxins commonly work their way from the outer parts of the field and ditches around a field, they work their way to the centre. Pankewich Jackson says another item to consider is the history of the next field over.
“If you’re planting wheat on a field beside another that’s been previously infected with fusarium or a toxin, there could be spores, as it could have been contamination before from the wind blowing into the next field.”
Passing the Test
Before the grain goes in the bin, Pankewich Jackson recommends doing an enzyme‐linked immunosorbent assay test (ELISA) as a simple insurance policy before the grain going into storage. These tests can be done at any elevator or third-party service providers like Cotecna.
“You can test for multiple toxins at once with just one test.”
A test like this would offer a breakdown and indicate if there is fusarium or vomitoxin in the grain when it’s being augured into the bin.
Check, Check, and Check Again
Pankewich Jackson adds that farmers should try to make sure the grain is going in at a reasonable temperature consistent with good storage practices. This is a proactive way of warding off mycotoxins, mold, heating and other problems from developing.
It is beneficial to have good aeration in the bin, but it will not solve all the problems if the grain has too much moisture in it when it goes into storage.
“Make sure you’re storing it at acceptable moisture levels because if you don’t, it’s going to cause problems when it heats up, such as infestation or mold developing or kernels themselves becoming damaged.”
She says that if farmers know the work is not done once the grain goes into storage, they need to be diligent in checking the grain again, they don’t want to lose money as a result of such issues as heated grain, mycotoxins, and insects on the crop they have worked so hard on. Pankewich Jackson says it is crucial to check on the grain at least once every two weeks for proper heating or infestation.
When making those checks, keep a sharp eye for indications of heating, such as by taking the bin’s temperature or measuring the carbon dioxide levels.
Pankewich Jackson also stresses that if a producer is probing the grain, they should try and get a good representation from different levels of the bin – or at least get a cross-section of that sample – if possible, to get the most accurate results.
To determine if there are no insects in the grain, a Berlese Funnel detection test is a producer’s best bet.
This simple test can be done in a third-party service provider’s office and even on the farm.
Pankewich Jackson says the grain is placed in a funnel on top of a mesh screen overtop a jar of water, and then a heat lamp is placed slightly above the grain so the heat itself doesn’t kill the insects.
“The bugs don’t like the heat, so they go to the bottom of the grain, through the screen, and drop in the water sitting on a beaker.”
If there are mites or insects in the water, then the farmer knows they have an issue on their hands.
I Have Mycotoxins in My Grain, Now What?
If the mycotoxins or mold slip by undetected, action will be required.
You can always carry out a test like ELISA and identify the affected products.
If it is a mold – and you catch it early enough because of heating – farmers can aerate the grain by moving the grain.
Pankewich Jackson acknowledges that farmers are very knowledgeable however it doesn’t hurt to remind everyone of some best practices. As CEOs of their own company, farmers go above and beyond to make sure they have the best product to sell or use as feed for themselves.
She says most often, problems happen because producers are forced to deal with a shortened harvest season due to adverse weather.
“Farmers don’t always have the space, dryer capacity nor the time e to do everything.”
She adds that good storage practices will help protect the grain in the bin enabling them to maximize their returns.