4 May 2001
Forecasts may aid cereal toxin fight

By Edward Long

A PREDICTION system forecasting likely cereal ear blight infections could reduce risks from toxins produced by the fungi, claims an expert.

Some of these toxins — known as mycotoxins — can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, haemorrhaging and immune system problems for livestock and humans.

Some EU states have set mycotoxin levels in grain, and these could extend across the union, says Peter Jenkinson of Harper Adams University College.

Dr Jenkinson says there is no reason why mycotoxins should not be reduced by a well-timed fungicide.

And to fine-tune this staff at Harper Adams are developing a possible forecasting system.

It is based on the fact that during warm, dry weather in spring and early summer, a lot of spores are produced on cereal stems.

This can lead to ear blight if that settled period is followed by heavy rain at flowering.

“Mycotoxins on grain is not yet a problem in this country,” says Dr Jenkinson.

But with a build-up of Fusarium graminearum, particularly in maize-growing areas, future trouble threatens. “There is no room for complacency.”

Not all fungi that cause ear blight produce toxins. The main culprit is Fusarium culmorum, but F graminearum is more important in warmer countries.

They can produce the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) that can cause chronic health problems for livestock and humans.

Austria has already set an advisory limit of 0.5ppm DON on wheat for human consumption.

A similar limit is proposed for cereals used for breakfast foods and pasta in the rest of the EU. The limit for wheat for flour is likely to be 0.75ppm.


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