Mycotoxins are naturally occurring chemicals that are produced by fungi growing on grain.
One of the most common mycotoxins in Texas is aflatoxin, a fungus that was identified in the 1960s. It tends to thrive when grain crops are under stress, due to drought or heat, not unlike the weather we’re currently experiencing.
Until now there was little a farmer could do to prevent its occurrence in levels that might impact him economically.
"If you get stress in that silking stage , well, that’s just right for this organism to start producing the spores, it floats up there and gets on this silk, and colonizes it and goes down and gets to the developing kernel."
H. Ray Smith is an ag consultant and says there is a new biological product available to farmers to help reduce the risk of aflatoxin.
"It’s the same species that we’re talking about that has the toxin in it, so they found a species that would not have the toxin. What we’re trying to do is make it very competitive, so we apply this product prior to silking."
The hope is, once introduced, the non-toxic strain of fungus will grow and minimize the amount of the toxic strain that is allowed to grow. Lee Denena is interested in anything that could reduce aflatoxin levels and enhance the value of his corn crop.
"It’s tolerable for all animals at 20 parts per billion and below, and then it ranges from 20 parts per billion on up to 3 or 400 parts per billion, so in that in-between there, there’s different discounts on your crop."
But Denena isn’t on the band wagon yet.
"If there’s a product that we can apply to our corn fields and guarantee us tolerable aflatoxin levels, below 20 parts per billion, then I’m going to be very interested in it, but I want to see it work."
New technology is great, but it’s usually expensive, and it needs to make sense to be incorporated into any business.
"I’m always fascinated by these chemical reps that’ll come out and say if you use my product I guarantee it will pay for itself or I’ll give your money back, and I want to say to them, if it’s just going to pay for itself, well let’s just all not waste or time because I can save my ten dollars an acre and you can keep your product and we’re all happy. It’s got to make me money, in order for me to be interested in using it."
I’m Joe Brown, taking a look at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.