The 2012 corn crop delivered many of the problems that were foreseen throughout last year’s growing season. Decreased yields, variable quality and mycotoxins have affected livestock production throughout North America. However, this crop may still be causing trouble as we dig deeper into the storage bins.

Alltech surveyed 329 samples from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2012 through its 37+ Program. Only one percent of the samples analyzed were free of mycotoxin contamination; 94 percent were contaminated with two to 10 mycotoxins. In corn grain samples, 95 percent contained Fumonisin and 48 percent contained DON.

In corn silage, 90 percent contained Fumonisin and 84 percent contained DON. The DDG samples contained 100 percent of both Fumonisin and DON. In all samples tested, aflatoxin was present in 18 percent of the samples.

“The ‘take home’ from this data set is that the 2012 corn crop is widely contaminated with multiple mycotoxins that can decrease animal performance and health,” says Dr. Max Hawkins, with the Alltech Myctoxin Management Team. “However, as the aflatoxin allowable level in feed and its metabolite M1 in milk are legislated, its presence is not as widespread and is more regionalized.”

The analyses conducted since Jan.1 has shown similar results, but with an interesting new finding: the numbers of mycotoxins present are increasing.

Hawkins says this increase in the total number of mycotoxins over time can be attributed to poor fermentation, inadequate packing or mismanagement.

These factors and others can contribute to further mold growth and mycotoxin production.

At harvest time, it was recommended that mycotoxin-contaminated grain be dried to 14 percent moisture within 24 to 48 hours to stabilize mold growth and ensure adequate grain storage. By limiting mold growth, mycotoxin production can be stabilized, but any mycotoxins already present would remain.

According to Hawkins, as temperatures remained warm in the fall, many growers aerated their bins and discovered that the mold and mycotoxin levels increased rapidly. As storage facilities were emptied this spring, high levels of mycotoxins were found in the lower levels of the facilities, where the fines and cracked kernels tend to concentrate.

Hawkins recommends these five tips for producers using the last of their 2012 crop:

Only run aeration fans during the coolest times of day or night. Hold grain at 50 degrees Fahrenheit or less and 14 percent moisture or less.

Mold growth in storage is greater where there are leaks in facilities and where fines and damaged kernels are concentrated.

The south side and tops of grain bins warm more quickly as daytime temperatures increase.

New mold growth will increase temperature and moisture in surrounding grain.

Continually monitor stored grain for temperature, moisture and mycotoxins.