High levels of vomitoxin in corn could impact elevators and other producers
By Diego Flammini
Ontario producers are worried about the marketability of their corn as reports of vomitoxin DON levels continue to increase.
“The DON levels in my corn are currently between 3 and 4.5 parts per million (ppm) and I hope they don’t get any higher than that,” Larry Davis, a producer from Brant County and a director with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, said to Farms.com.
“At these levels, I’ll be making zero dollars per acre because the elevators will be docking me somewhere around $20 per ton.”
Consistently wet conditions have contributed to ear mould in grain corn.
Parts of the province expect to receive more rain in the coming days and farmers are concerned about the condition of their unharvested corn.
“I’ve got about 300 acres left to harvest but this weather has been holding me back,” Davis said. “The delayed harvest increases the DON levels in the corn. I’ve got to get the crop harvested and to the dryer as soon as I’m able to or else there won’t be much of a market for it.”
Simply harvesting the crop doesn’t mean producers are in the clear – the grain elevator still has to accept it.
Companies are warning farmers that high DON levels could result in rejected loads.
“Levels of vomitoxin over 8 ppm are highly unmarketable and subject to rejection,” Dawn Betancourt, president of Thompsons Ltd., wrote on the company’s website.
Davis witnessed a farmer have his grain turned away firsthand.
“A load behind me the other day had 31 ppm in the corn and the elevator said no thanks,” Davis said. “It’s just devastating, and everyone is affected by (DON). It hurts the elevators too because they operate on a volume basis.”
Livestock producers could also feel the effects of increased vomitoxin in corn.
Producers who feed their cattle corn could start looking elsewhere if the price of feed goes up, said Kim Lehman, a beef producer from Renfrew County.
“If the cost does go up and it starts to affect whether we want to purchase feed (from our current supplier), I could see us looking for alternative sources and stop buying local if we could get it cheaper from other places,” she said.
Farmers who decide to feed their cattle the lower quality corn could incur other feed costs, said Blake Alton, a cash crop and beef producer from Bruce County.
DON levels are potentially harmful to cattle when they are between 2.5 and 6.0 ppm, OMAFRA says.
“You’re selling the grain at a discount because whoever does buy it is going to have to put binders in the feed and that can be pretty pricey,” he said to Farms.com. “I’ve heard a couple stories of people just burying the corn just because they had no way of getting rid of it.”
But help may be on the way for corn growers.
The OFA, Grain Farmers of Ontario and Agricorp could work together to support affected farmers.
“There’s a lot of emails going back and forward right now,” Davis said. “Grain Farmers of Ontario wants to team up with the OFA to lobby the provincial government to find a solution to this situation.”
Gibberella ear rot/OMAFRA photo