August 2018

By Sven Olaf

 

In my last column I wrote about the cycle of producing feed and ultimately foodand it´s constraints and challenges.

This month I will address the importance to handle the crops postharvest in a professional way in order to avoid growth of mould and fungi which can lead to mycotoxins. The most common is aflatoxins found in peanuts, maize and in many other commodities, the fungal source is the well-known Aspergillus family, and it can cause cancer in humans and other adverse effects in animals especially chickens, other mycotoxins are fumonisin, ochratoxin, zearalenone and they are all bad news!

An international report says that 25 percent of the grain worldwide are contaminated with mycotoxins. It is estimated that 10 percent of the global harvest is lost by fungi and mycotoxins, so it is representing an enormous value and has a great impact on our ability to feed our growing population. The absolutely best way is to prevent this is to dry the crop to the extent that the "water activity" will be kept at a very low level and thereby minimise the growth of fungi and mould.

The major problem is to keep that water activity for a longer period and in particular humid and hot conditions. Another element is the nature of the storage bin and if you will have huge variation between night and day temperature.

Once you have got occurrence of mycotoxins one must emphasise that there are no universal and reliable methods to erase them completely even though there are commercial toxin binders available in the market.

Therefore, it is better to prevent than cure by using inhibitors parallel with good storage practice. Propionic acid for mould inhibition is the most effective and you can mix it with other organic acids like formic to get a better spectrum, their salt can also be used as it is more user friendly but correctly applied and with safety precautions the liquid is more effective. The presence of mycotoxins in grains and feedstuffs is hazardous for human and animal health so we better fight this battle together in order to at least minimise it as much as possible.

The best way forward is to increase the awareness and introduce best practice.

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