Record mycotoxin levels prompt grain rejection fears

Harvest 2007 was one of the worst years for fusarium and mycotoxins in wheat and some loads have already been rejected, NIAB warned today (19 September).

Testing at the Cambridge-based centre found that 90% of samples were infected with Fusarium species, compared with 60-70% in the last bad year for pink grains, grain specialist, David Kenyon said. Some 17% had ‘high’ levels of infection – the highest proportion for 6-7 years, he said.

But importantly, background levels of the DON toxin were higher than normal in the majority of samples and several batches of wheat exceeded the EU threshold of 1250ppb, which led to rejected loads, he said.

“Last year and the year before, most samples were around the baseline level of 35-40ppb, but this year all seem to have shifted nearer the several hundred parts per billion mark. It’s certainly the worst year we’ve seen for mycotoxins.”

A quarter of barley samples also had high levels of fusarium infection, which was “significantly higher” than normal.

The news would be a particular concern to millers and malsters and farmers had to be aware there was a risk of rejection, Dr Kenyon said. “It’s been so warm and wet over so much of the country this summer, we could get a problem almost anywhere.”

Where crops were at risk, he advised growers to get grain tested before it was moved off farm, to avoid any unnecessary haulage costs resulting from loads being rejected.

“You need to make sure you sample the heap properly to get a representative sample – treat it as if it were for seed,” he noted.

NIAB’s mycotoxin testing service costs around £36.50 per test and requires at least 100g of wheat seed.

Have you had grain rejected, or are you worried about the quality of crops in store? Tell us at the FWi forums.