A mycotoxin with the propensity to hurt livestock and even humans that consume it, fumonisin is making its way through parts of Okalahoma and Texas well-above normal levels. Farmers with the mold are likely to face discounts and possibly be unable to feed grain to livestock.
“We’ve started seeing reports of fumonisin levels running above 60 parts per million (ppm), up into 100 ppm in some cases,” says David Gibson, executive director of Texas Corn Producers. “It started in our earliest corn and really caught us off guard to see those levels.”
To put it in perspective, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specific allowances for the toxin when consumed. In humans it’s at most 4 ppm when in dry milled corn bran or degermed dry milled corn products. For cattle it’s at most 60 ppm.
The toxin is a result of hot weather in late June and July followed by a cool, exceptionally wet August. Those conditions allowed for Fusarium monilforme, Fusarium prolifeatum or other Fusarium species to infect the corn crop and create the fumonisin toxin. FDA also says that fumonisin can increase under improper storage conditions, especially when corn is harvested between 18% and 23% moisture.
Farmers in Texas and Oklahoma look to lose about 25% of their earnings per bu. if they’re found above fumonisin threshold. “About $1 per bu. is the average reduction—very significant,” Gibson says.
Those who have the fungus should speak with insurance adjusters prior to harvest so they can take any needed samples. This cannot be done when harvest is finished.