Producers know about the strict limits on aflatoxin levels in corn. No variety of corn is naturally resistant to the toxin, but researchers at the Southeast Regional Aflatoxin Test are working to figure out which hybrids show lower levels of contamination.
Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring toxin appearing in corn, cotton, peanuts and tree nuts, and is produced by fungi, which in turn are produced by two types of mold: Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.
Not only are the toxin's levels strictly limited for both export and domestic use, but ethanol distillers also impose aflatoxin limits, as the toxin could be concentrated in the distillers grains byproduct.
Scott Averhoff, the National Corn Growers Association's Mycotoxin Task Force Chairman, says the SERAT is exploring the most promising research areas of inoculating corn with a strain of the aflatoxin-causing mold that does not result in harmful toxins. The SERAT is also looking into using a product originally intended for peanuts.
"The program has provided standardized protocol across the region, but funding is limited," Averhoff says. "We need to test more hybrids and test at more sites."