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Extreme weather conditions cause high mycotoxin risk


People worldwide are concerned about the effects of climate change we are facing, including increasing temperatures, extreme droughts and heavy rainfall. These can have a big impact on the yield and quality of food crops, and thus also on food safety. One of the important food safety concerns is a higher risk for contamination of crops with mycotoxins. This is due to an increased susceptibility of crops to infection by mycotoxin-producing molds, caused by increased temperatures and extreme weather conditions.

During warm and dry seasons, some crops, such as corn, are more vulnerable to infection by Fusarium verticillioides and Aspergillus flavus. This comes along with a higher contamination of fumonisins and aflatoxins. In temperate regions, a higher number of rainy days increases the risk of crop infection with Fusarium culmorum and graminearum, which both produce DON and ZEA.

Another concern is how climate change affects the persistence of specific molds on crops in certain areas, and thus also the degree of contamination of these crops with specific mycotoxins: F. culmorum, for example, has long been the prevalent species in cooler temperate climates in Europe. However, in the last decade F. graminearum has become the dominant species because of its higher temperature optimum. Since F. graminearum generally produces more mycotoxins compared to F. culmorum, therefore mycotoxin concentrations may increase.


map-temperature-mar-may-2016 precipitation-percentiles-mar-may-2016

Source: NOAA: Global temperature and precipitation profile from March till May 2016


The above figure shows per region the global change in temperature and precipitation during the last few months compared to the average situation between 1981-2010. It is clear that March until May 2016 were warmer than the average of the same period between 1981 and 2010. Furthermore, some areas were much wetter than normal, while other areas were much drier. It is expected that this will lead to increased levels of mycotoxins in the next grain harvest.

Moreover, more rainfall just before harvest also increases the risk of mycotoxins during storage. If contaminated grains are not dried properly, mycotoxin concentrations can increase dramatically within a few days.

However, a number of measures can be taken to minimize mycotoxin contamination in grains and feed, such as:(a) use of crop varieties that are more resistant to molds that produce mycotoxins,(b) proper storage conditions to minimize mold growth and production of mycotoxins and (c) preventing harmful effects of mycotoxins already in feed by using a broad-range mycotoxin binder.

Free-Tox (Starbind) is a range of binders specifically developed for its activity against a broad spectrum of mycotoxins. A dosage of 0.5-2.0 kg/MT of feed, depending on the contamination (risk) already prevents most of the problems related to mycotoxins. It is a small investment to help avoid digestive problems or diseases related to mycotoxins.



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