Summertime drought conditions that hampered Michigan's corn crop may have set the stage for a harvest-time threat for which farmers should be on the lookout. Corn growers are advised to watch for a fungal pest—Aspergillus mold—the presence of which can lead to levels of aflatoxin within the grain that may reduce or eliminate the crop's value.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency recently reported elevated aflatoxin levels in harvested corn in several Midwestern states.
Corn farmers in the southern Lower Peninsula, where drought conditions were most severe, should be particularly vigilant prior to harvest. Those suspecting aflatoxin in their corn should notify their crop insurance agent before harvesting, storing or delivering the grain for sale.
Crop insurance providers will submit samples for testing by an approved testing facility; producers cannot take their own samples. Losses are only insurable if the grain is tested at an approved facility before moving into commercial or on-farm storage.
Depending on the aflatoxin level, the corn price may be discounted or, in rare cases, the grain may have to be destroyed.
Farmers are reminded that aflatoxin levels can increase in storage and become concentrated in dried distillers' grain, the ethanol production by-product often used as livestock feed.
Producers with concerns about aflatoxin should contact their crop insurance agent with any questions; they can provide information specifically targeted to producers' needs.