Manhattan, KS – When it comes to the weather in Kansas this year, the state is again one of the haves and the have-nots.
Parts of Kansas have had more-than-normal precipitation while others, mostly in the central part of the state, are in abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions.
It is those hot, humid and droughty conditions where aflatoxin is typically found in corn, said Doug Jardine, plant pathologist with K-State Research and Extension.
He’s encouraging farmers to be on the lookout for signs that it could be present.
Aflatoxin, a poisonous carcinogen, is a naturally occurring toxin caused by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, a greenish-yellow, dime- to quarter-sized mold that grows on corn ears between the kernels. In severe cases, the mold my cover larger portions of the ear.
Jardine said he’s had no reports of positive samples of aflatoxin in corn from elevators to date, but he and others have found Aspergillus ear rot at levels not seen since 2012.
The simple presence of the fungus can but does not necessarily translate to aflatoxin problems, because different field strains of the fungus can be more or less efficient at producing the toxin.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has established 20 parts per billion or higher as the level at which aflatoxin is deemed unsafe for human consumption, and many buyers of corn for human or pet consumption have more stringent standards, Jardine said.
Most grain elevators now use a test that can be performed quickly at the point of delivery, rather than the outdated black light method, he said.
Samples of corn that test at less than 100 ppb are usually accepted without penalty. Levels over 100 ppb may be docked a percentage or not accepted at all.
Jardine shared other facts about aflatoxin:
More information on aflatoxin, including how corn growers can reduce the incidence of it and other mycotoxins after harvest, is available in the Sept. 1 issue of the K-State Extension Agronomy eUpdate newsletter http://bit.ly/2gQXAWB or by contacting a local K-State Research and Extension county or district office.