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What mycotoxin risk can be expected in 2019?What mycotoxin risk can be expected in 2019?

Since 2012, the prevalence of deoxynivalenol and zearalenone has increased.

October 29, 2019

10 Min Read
Corn ear with mycotoxin.jpg

As the 2019 corn harvest is underway, those in the livestock industry are asking what the threat of mycotoxins will be to animal health during this production year. 

Significant data from tested corn samples from this harvest are not yet available, and factors that contribute to the mycotoxin risk are varied and complex, making risk at the farm level difficult to predict. However, some insight can be gleaned from weather patterns over this year's growing season and crop condition reports, while also taking long-term trends into account.

These pieces of information, considering potential sources of contamination to the swine diet other than corn, being able to recognize the costs to animal production itself, and understanding how to respond, are all ways producers can be prepared to reduce the impact of mycotoxins to their herd and their business.

Mycotoxin risk factors
General risk estimations due to weather include overwintering conditions, precipitation and temperature during the silking period, precipitation and temperature from silking to harvest, and timeliness of harvest. A summary of these risk factors over the 2019 growing season with general risk estimation is included in the Risk Factors table.


Overall, there are several concerning risk factors for increased risk of fumonisin in areas where temperatures were above average, and a greater risk of deoxynivalenol and zearalenone in the areas in which harvest has been delayed. As always, areas of drought- and heat-stressed crops have an increased risk of aflatoxin.

In addition to these weather patterns, the USDA crop report from Oct. 7 indicates several states are significantly behind in corn maturity compared to the five-year average (58% versus 85% in the 18 top states for planted corn acreage). Delayed maturity and wet conditions in some Midwest states this October has resulted in a delayed harvest, exposing the corn crop to cooler weather, which increases the potential for DON and ZEN production.

Corn quality data also indicate a potential for a higher risk year, with decreases in percentage points of excellent-quality corn and increases in poor-and fair-quality corn. States with the poorest conditions include Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri and Illinois. Producers in these states should take additional precautions to evaluate the risk of their new-crop corn.

Long-term trends
Another consideration that can be taken into account is overall long-term trends of mycotoxin contamination. Since 2012, the prevalence of DON and ZEN have increased, as shown in Figure 1, while fumonisin and aflatoxin have shown a decrease in prevalence (Hendel et al., 2019).


Additionally, the 2018 harvest had an additional Type B trichothecene, nivalenol, found with much higher frequency in corn fed to swine and in complete swine feeds compared to previous years (Biomin Mycotoxin Survey, unpublished results). Although its mechanism of action is similar to DON, it is considered more toxic (Alassane-Kpembi et al., 2015, Payros et al., 2016), and it will be interesting to see if this specific challenge makes a reappearance in 2019.

With both weather conditions and crop quality conditions, it is possible that we may see a holding of last year's challenging crop rather than a decrease, as was observed in 2016 and 2017.

Feed ingredient evaluation
It is common practice for mills and producers that have mycotoxin testing programs to evaluate corn and corn dried distillers grains with solubles, at times using this to estimate the risk of the complete feed. However, other feed ingredients, in addition to corn grain and corn byproducts, can contribute to the overall mycotoxin load of the diet.

Wheat middlings are an ingredient used in swine diets that can contribute to the mycotoxin load of the feed; a multiyear survey of wheat middlings found that nearly 90% tested positive for B-trich, and 73% were positive for ergot alkaloids (Gott et al., 2019). Although the sample pool was limited, these two mycotoxins can be treated as a consistent risk in wheat middlings.

An additional feed ingredient that can contribute to mycotoxin risk in the complete feed is oils. This is particularly relevant when evaluating the risk of ZEN, as it is found in corn oil at higher levels than other mycotoxins, and can be a source of contamination unaccounted for in the screening of ingredients for reproductive animals (Escobar et al., 2013).

Mycotoxin health risks
In addition to understanding the risk of this upcoming corn crop, as well as other sources of contamination that may make it into feed, it is also useful for producers to understand what potential health challenges to expect in the face of mycotoxin contamination.

Classic symptoms such as vomiting and feed refusal are often used as indicators of mycotoxin presence and as an intervention point. However, these specific symptoms are relatively limited in scope compared to the effects of chronic mycotoxin exposure.

Chronic liver damage and toxicity to lymphocytes can result in dysfunction of both innate and adaptive immune systems. The consequences to this can be highly detrimental to preventive
management on the farm; for example, researchers have demonstrated that DON reduces the response to a porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus modified live virus (Savard et al., 2015), implicating mycotoxins in the compromise of vaccine efficacy.

In addition to their compromise of the immune system, mycotoxins have the ability to act as predisposing and exacerbating factors to disease. DON and fumonisin have been associated with increasing the severity of both viral and bacterial respiratory diseases (Bane et al., 1992, Savard et al., 2014, Halloy et al., 2005, Pósa et al., 2011, Pósa et al., 2013).

Within the gastrointestinal tract, there is evidence to suggest DON can increase salmonella translocation across the enteric epithelium (Vandenbroucke et al., 2011), as well as invasion into macrophages (Vandenbroucke et al., 2009). Additionally, low doses of fumonisin can result in drastically improved adherence (400-fold) and systemic invasion of E. coli in nursery pigs after only six days of exposure (Oswald et al., 2003).

Risk mitigation a must
With the potential impacts on animal health, having a risk mitigation program in place for mycotoxins is essential. Although using clay for adsorption is a common mitigation practice in the industry to support animals during exposure through feed, studies have demonstrated poor adsorption (a mean of 5%) of DON (Murugesan et al., 2015), and moderate adsorption of ZEN (Fruhauf et al., 2012), as shown in Figure 2.


Thus, mycotoxin risk management extending beyond monitoring and interventions reliant only on adsorption, such as biotransformation and supporting liver health and immune function, is likely to provide more comprehensive protection of animal health. 

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NOAA, 2019. National Temperature and Precipitation Maps. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/us-maps/



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Source: Erika Hendel, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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