Posts tagged ‘vomitoxin’

Vomitoxin in Wheat – Legal Ramifications for Producers, Buyers

The following article was written by Robert Moore, Wright Law Co. LPA:

The unusually wet spring has predictably caused disease problems in Ohio’s wheat crop.  In addition to head scab and other more common diseases, vomitoxin is being found in this year’s crop.  Vomitoxin is a mycotoxin that causes suppressed appetite in livestock and can be harmful to people as well.

Producers with a Contract

Producers who have a contract with a buyer must look to the contract to determine their rights.  All provisions, including any small print on the back of the contract, must be read entirely before assessing legal rights.  The language of the contract is what matters; any verbal agreements made outside the contract have very little effect in enforcing legal rights.  Even if the producer and buyer agree to certain terms, if the terms do not find their way onto the contract then the parties are probably not bound by the terms.

In regards to Vomitoxin, the key terms are those describing the quality of the wheat required to be delivered.  Contracts usually require No.2 wheat to be delivered.  No. 2 wheat is a grade established by the USDA and may have up to 4% damaged kernels.  The USDA defines damaged kernels as “Kernels, pieces of wheat kernels, and other grains that are badly ground-damaged, badly weather-damaged, diseased, frost-damaged, germ-damaged, heat-damaged, insect-bored, mold-damaged, sprout-damaged, or otherwise materially damaged..”  Therefore, if the only grade standard in the contract is No. 2 Soft Red Wheat, a producer’s wheat should not be rejected or discounted solely for Vomitoxin unless more than 4% of the kernels are diseased or otherwise damaged.  The 4% threshold is the accumulation of all damaged kernels and not just a single type of damage.

Some contracts will include more restrictive grade terms such as “must be suitable for human consumption” or “must meet all FDA guidelines”.  The FDA has not established a minimum threshold for raw wheat for human consumption.  The milling and manufacturing of wheat can reduce vomitoxin levels.  Finished wheat products like flour and bran must contain less than 1 ppm if used for human consumption. The FDA has established a 5 part per million (ppm) threshold for hogs and 10 ppm threshold for cattle and poultry.  Therefore, a miller that requires wheat to meet FDA standards can reject wheat if the flour or other final product would contain more than 1 ppm vomitoxin.  It is important to note that wheat could have less than 4% damaged kernels but have more than  1 ppm vomitoxin.  That is, the USDA No.2 wheat grade is a completely different standard that the FDA’s ppm standard.

Producers that have wheat rejected can have the dual problem of having wheat rejected and still being obligated to fulfill the contract.  A worse case scenario would see a producer not being able to sell his wheat due to high vomitoxin levels while still being required to fulfill his contract obligations for untainted wheat with the elevator.  Typically a buyer will reject the wheat without requiring the producer to fulfill the contract.

Producers without Contracts

A producer who intends to sell a load of wheat to a buyer without a contract has very little legal protection from the corn being rejected.  The buyer is under no obligation to buy the wheat and can simply opt not to buy the wheat for any reasonable reason.  Without a contract, the buyer is not bound to any predetermined grade standards.  Even the smallest amount of vomitoxin in the wheat could cause it to be rejected.

Disputed Grain Samples

Producers have the right to appeal the grain grading determination performed by the elevator.  The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) oversees grain grading procedures and methods and also provides inspection and appeal services.  A producer who disputes the elevator’s grading can send a sample to FGIS and FGIS’ determination will be binding on both parties.  A FGIS office is located in Toledo.  For more details and information on grading appeals, contact FGIS at 419- 893-3076‎.

Crop Insurance

Some crop insurance policies cover Vomitoxin damage. The wheat must be checked by an adjuster while still in the field to avoid tainted wheat from being mixed with untainted wheat in bins.  Many producers opted to not file a claim on their corn crop due to the significant impact on APH.

Future Implications

Will we see grain contracts move away from the USDA No.2 Wheat standard and towards the FDA ppm standard for vomitoxin and other mycotoxins?  Buyers relying on the USDA standard could get stuck buying grain that exceeds the FDA’s ppm standards.  Unless blended with non-tainted grain, this grain would seemingly be unmarketable as it could not be used for human consumption, livestock consumption, and/or export. Producers should anticipate possible changes to grading standards in contracts offered by elevators and other buyers.  A careful reading of all new grain contracts should be a must for producers to make sure they fully understand the quality and grade of grain they are expected to deliver to the buyer.

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June 25, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Crop Insurance and Vomitoxin In Wheat: What are Farmers Options?

The following was written by Chris Bruynis, Assistant Professor/Extension Educator, OSU Extension:

Producers that carry multi-peril crop insurance policies subsidized and reinsured by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (as overseen by the Risk Management Agency (RMA)) may be eligible for quality loss adjustments if the reason for the loss in value is due to a covered event such as the excessive precipitation received this spring. Reports coming from the elevators on harvested wheat indicate that not only are wheat yields lower than expected but vomitoxin levels are high, ranging from 5 – 10 ppm in Northwest Ohio.

In order for producer’s to protect their rights, it is imperative to report any damage in the required time frame and seek advice from the insurance company before proceeding with harvest or destruction of the damaged crop. Failure to do so may jeopardize the claim. Crop insurance policies require that farmers notify their company within 72 hours of noticing a loss. It is important that farmers be proactive in checking their fields to determine if there is any damage to the crop before harvest. Quality adjustments are available for loss in value for conditions such as low test weight, damaged kernels, and shrunken or broken kernels. Discounts made for crop loss purposes may not be the same as those seen at the elevator. For example, quality discounts begin when the test weight is less than 50 pounds, defects are above 15% or grade is U.S. No. 5 or worse.

Any production of extremely poor quality wheat that has a value not located on the discount factor charts in the Special Provisions of Insurance (“off the discount tables”) is adjusted by taking the actual sale price based upon the Reduction In Value divided by the local market price to equal the discount factor for the production. In the event that the production has a Zero-Market Value Production, RMA loss procedures require insurance providers to make every effort to find a market for the production before declaring a zero value. Therefore, insurance providers will not be making declarations of zero market value until they can firmly establish that there is no market for poor quality grain.

Quality adjustments are based on samples obtained by the adjuster or other disinterested parties authorized by the insurance provider, such as an elevator employee. Harvested and delivered production samples taken from each conveyance and then blended may be accepted under certain conditions. If vomitoxin is suspected, the sample must be collected before the grain is placed in storage to be eligible for quality adjustment. The samples should be placed in a heavy paper bag for delivery to an approved laboratory for a determination of whether vomitoxin is present.  There is a minimum number of samples required based on acreage.  For a field of 10 acres or less 3 samples are required: 40 acres or less 4 samples and the one additional sample for every additional 40 acres or fraction thereof.  Examples: 9 acres = 3 samples; 13 acres = 4 samples; 63 acres = 5 samples; 110 acres = 6 samples.

There are special problems that arise when examining quality adjustments such as vomitoxin in wheat.  The first problem is the elevator’s discounts that are applied to the wheat.  They may not align with the calculations determined by RMA, resulting in a discrepancy between the discounts taken by the elevator and the coverage provided from the indemnity payment.  The second problem is the adjustment that occurs to the proven yield for this year’s crop that becomes part of the farm’s 10 year actual production history (APH).  Since price is fixed at the planting or the harvest price, the quality loss adjustment is attributed to the yield.  In the example below, a producer has purchased 4,500 bushels of coverage (45 bu/a) on his 100 acres of wheat. At harvest 40 bu/a were harvested with an average vomitoxin level of 10 ppm. If no quality adjustment is made, the APH for 2010 is 40 bu/a and the indemnity payment is for 500 bushel.  If quality adjustments are made, the APH becomes 20 bu/a in this example and the payment would be for 2,500 bushels.  This difference in yield might lower the farms APH enough to make the increased indemnity payment less attractive, especially if the discount taken at the elevator was significantly less than the calculated loss.


Example of coverage calculation:

Producer has actual production history (APH) of 60 bu/acre

Producer plants 100 acres; elects 75% coverage level

60 bu/acre X 100 acre X 75% = 4,500 bu coverage


Example with no quality adjustment:

Producer harvested 4,000 bu Production to Count (PTC)

4,500 bu coverage – 4,000 bu PTC = 500 bu shortfall

Indemnity based upon 500 bu X price election


Example with quality adjustment:

Producer harvested 4,000 bu Production to Count (PTC)

Production is quality adjusted to 2,000 bu PTC

4,500 bu coverage – 2,000 bu PTC = 2,500 bu shortfall

Indemnity based upon 2,500 bu X price election


Farmers also need to think about the implication on ACRE and SURE in claiming the quality adjustment for crop insurance purposes.  SURE payments are 60% of the difference between the SURE guarantee and all crop revenue.  All crop revenue includes insurance indemnities, prevented planting payments, other federal aid for same loss, 15% of direct payments, all ACRE, counter cyclical, and market loan program payments, and the estimated actual crop revenue from farm.  Taking the quality adjustments would increase the insurance indemnities while lowering the estimated actual crop revenue for a net sum of zero (or close to zero).  In the event there is a 2010 SURE payment, taking the quality adjustment should have minimal impact on the SURE payment.

If the producer has enrolled in ACRE, the farm’s five year Olympic average is used to set the farm trigger.  There is nothing in the literature that would indicate that the quality adjustment would affect the 2010 crop yield used in this calculation. Producers can still use elevator receipts to verify yield so the actual yield before quality adjustments would be used.  Even if the 20 bushel yield in this example was used in calculating the Olympic average, it would be the low year and excluded from the average. This only becomes problematic if there is another very low year in the past five years or in the future.

As a final comment, producers should contact their crop insurance provider as soon as possible to discuss potential losses and receive the correct procedures to follow. This will help insure that the producer can collect an indemnity payment if the conditions warrant.  Just because a producer contacts their crop insurance provider, does not require them to file a claim, if they choose not to following harvest.

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June 25, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Precautions for Handling Moldy Grain

Poor quality and mycotoxin infested grain is common this year with some growers reporting very low levels to very high levels.  Purdue University recently published a short article on grain safety handling:

Breathing grain dust is never healthy, and grain handlers should always wear protective masks when they work in grain bins, and when conducting operations that generate dust. Grain damaged by ear rots will have higher levels of dust and fines present, compared to good quality grain. Fungal spores produced by the ear rot fungi will also be in the grain dust. Fortunately, the fungus that causes Gibberella ear rot does not produce a lot of spores. However, there will certainly be spores of other molds in the grain dust. These spores can lead to allergic reactions, which may include flu-like symptoms, if workers do not take precautionary measures to protect themselves from exposure.

Simple safety procedures can be implemented to minimize exposure to grain dust and mold spores. When working with moldy grain, wear appropriate clothing such as long sleeves, pants, and gloves. A dust mask or respirator should also be worn to minimize inhalation risks. People who have a compromised immune system or respiratory ailments should avoid handling or working with moldy grain.

Full podcast here:


February 17, 2010 at 8:12 am

Agronomy Technology Day Planned

The Van Wert County Extension Office, in partnership with agribusinesses, will be hosting an Agronomy Technology Day on January 16, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Van Wert County Extension Office.

Farmers are invited to attend this free agronomy technology educational program. “The meeting will focus on several current agricultural topics as well as review some of the great research conducted at Farm Focus in 2009,” said Van Wert County Extension Educator Andy Kleinschmidt.

One of those hot topics that will be addressed is an update on the mold situation in corn. “The moldy grain issue is huge right now, and to address this issue OSU Pathologist Dr. Pierce Paul will provide a videocast update with the latest information on how to deal with moldy grain,” said Kleinschmidt.

Other topics to be covered include: foliar fertilizers and fungicides for corn and soybeans, Kixor herbicide update, marestail and giant ragweed control, corn and soybean seeding rates, and tillage.

This Agronomy Technology Day is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided, so please RSVP to the Van Wert County Extension office at 419-238-1214 or by January 14.

Full podcast here:

January 5, 2010 at 3:49 pm

More Questions and Answers on Moldy Grain, Mycotoxins

Q. Why is there such a within load variation for vomitoxin ppm? For example, a load can test zero ppm at one elevator and 10 ppm at another elevator.

Response: Variability stems from the fact that there is variation in the number of ears infected within a field and, on any given ear, there is variation in the number of kernels infected, and even more, kernels with similar appearance in terms of moldiness on the surface, may have different levels of internal fungal colonization and consequently variation in mycotoxin contamination. In addition, healthy-looking kernels may also be contaminated with vomitoxin.  Variability is a major issue!!  Because of this variability, sampling needs to be done correctly in order to adequately determine the level of contamination. There are always “hot spots” within the grain lot and if you sample only once or a few time and end up doing so in those “hot spots” then you’ll overestimate how contaminated the grain lot really is. Conversely,  if you totally miss the hot spots then you’ll underestimate contamination. That’s the reason why we always recommend that multiple samples be taken from multiple locations within the lot, then bulk, mix and grind the grain before analysis.

We (OSU) have not used all of the testing equipments that are out there, but most of the highly recommend ones are fairly reliable and consistent. The kits that give you quantitative estimates (1,2,3,15,38 ppm) are generally better that the semi quantitative (more than 5 ppm) or qualitative (yes/no response) kits… but it all depends on what you are using the kit for. In general, the ELISA kits (most of the kits that are out there are ELISA-based) are calibrated against the more sophisticated quantitative lab equipment, and if used correctly (incorrect  use is another potential source of variation) should provide consistent results across elevators. However, test results from one elevator to another are also subject to variation in how the samples were drawn from one elevator to another. Unless the sampling is done correctly and in the same or a similar manner among elevators, it will be impossible to tell whether the differences (0 at one elevator and 10 at another) are due to differences among the testing equipments or to poor and inconsistent sampling protocols among elevators. In fact, the best way (but probably not the most practical) to compare elevators it to send subsamples from the same bulk sample for testing at the different elevators.


Q. For on-farm separation of mycotoxin infested corn from clean corn, would a gravity table work satisfactorily?

Response: Very moldy kernels are usually lighter than healthy, plump kernels, however, like I in the paragraph above, plump-looking kernels may also be contaminated with vomitoxin. Any method that can be used to remove moldy kernels will help to reduce the overall level of contamination of the lot… moldy kernels are always more contaminated that the most contaminated of the healthy-looking kernels.


Q. Is there a possibility of the probe itself being a cause for some of the variability in readings? Can the mycotoxin be transferred to clean corn from a probe?

Response: Although the probe can more the mycotoxin-producing fungus around, the probe is generally not a means by with the mycotoxin itself moves from contaminated to clean corn. If the corn is indeed clean (with little or no fungus) and stored correctly, then the small amount of fungal mycelium or spore carried on the probe should not be sufficient to cause major contamination of the healthy lot.  However, on the subject of cross contamination, it is never a bad practice to clean the probe before moving between lots or loads.

Part I of mycotoxin issues can be read at

Full podcast here:

December 31, 2009 at 7:30 am

Questions and Answers on Moldy Grain and Mycotoxins

The following article appeared in the Ohio State University Extension December 22, 2009 CORN Newsletter and was written by Pierce Paul, Katelyn Willyerd and Peter Thomison:

The 2009 corn crop is providing some challenge to grain users due to various levels of mycotoxins that are being found in individual lots of grain. According to some livestock operations and ethanol plants, levels of deoxynivalenol (vomitoxin) and zearalenone in 2009 crop are unprecedented. Grain deliveries have been rejected because of excessively high mycotoxin levels. Some ethanol plants are starting to discount grain at 3 ppm (vomitoxin), with rejection above 7 ppm. Although we’ve experienced localized problems with ear rots in Ohio in past years, the incidence and severity of ear rots and associated mycotoxins this year is more severe and widespread.

Q1. How bad was the mold and mycotoxin problem in 2009?

Abnormally cool and wet weather during and after silking provided optimal conditions for the development of Gibberalla ear rot that resulted in high levels of mycotoxins contamination of harvested grain.

The fungus Gibberella zeae causes ear rot of corn and head scab of wheat. The fungus produces mycotoxins, most notably vomitoxin (deoxynivalenol, DON) as it colonizes. In general, high levels of disease severity and moldy grain indicate high levels of toxin in susceptible varieties/hybrids. Once the crop has dried down (<20% moisture), fungal growth and vomitoxin production are reduced substantially. In harvested grain, vomitoxin is heat stable and water soluble and will survive many processing, baking and distilling procedures.

Q2. What is the impact of these ear rot mycotoxins?

The Gibberella ear rot fungus produces mycotoxins that are harmful to both humans and animals. These include deoxynivalenol (Vomitoxin) and zearalenone and T-2 toxin, all of which may cause health problems. Therefore, suspect grain should be tested for these mycotoxins by chemical analysis before being fed to animals. As a general rule do not feed any grain with 5% or more Gibberella moldy kernels. Hogs and young animals are particularly sensitive to these mycotoxins.

Sampling and testing of grain are necessary to determine that vomitoxin (deoxynivalenol or DON) is below advisory levels in products. The FDA has set the advisory levels to insure the safety of the food and feed supply. For bran, flour, and germ intended for human consumption at 1 ppm. For grain and grain by-products destined for ruminating beef and feedlot cattle older than four months and for chickens with the added recommendation that these ingredients not exceed 50% of the diet of cattle or chicken at 10 ppm. For grains and grain by-products destined for swine, and all others animals with the added recommendation that these ingredients not exceed 20% of the diet for swine and 40% of the diet for other animals set at 5 ppm.

Mycotoxins in corn are concentrated about three fold in dry distillers grains, i.e. during ethanol production, removing the starch from corn (the content of which can average about 60 percent) concentrates levels of these mycotoxins.

If growers were not aware of the moldy corn/mycotoxin problem at harvest more than likely the corn could have gone into the bin in poor conditions. If proper storage conditions were not maintained, the corn will come out of the bin in very bad, perhaps unmarketable, condition surprising the grower and affecting his bottom line significantly.

Q3. Procedures to sample grain lots for Vomitoxin.

Before pulling samples for toxin analysis, grain handlers should first protect themselves from dust and toxin exposure by wearing a mask, goggles and gloves. Careful attention to sampling, extraction and testing protocol should be followed to accurately measure vomitoxin accumulation in grain. Guidelines have been written based on research done with wheat and barley and are available at the United States Department of Agriculture Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards website at

To collect a representative sample from the bin or truckload of grain, 5-10 subsamples should be randomly collected from multiple locations. Samples taken only from the central or outer portions of the load or from the beginning and end of the grain stream will not provide an accurate estimate of toxin contamination. For end-gate sampling, sample from the entire width and depth of the stream. For probe sampling, use hand or mechanical probes to sample from the entire bin, in an “X”-shaped pattern, for example. The use of suction or air probes is not recommended when sampling grain for mycotoxins. Once subsamples are obtained, bulked, and cleaned, the grain must be ground uniformly, in a clean grinding apparatus, to resemble flour. Finer particle size increases surface area of the grain and allows for more efficient extraction of vomitoxin.

Q4. How and where to test for mycotoxins?

The most common test for vomitoxin is an ELISA test, which is based on the ability of toxin in the grain to bind to specific antibodies coating the specially-designed sample cups provided with the ELISA kit. These kits are very specific for the toxin being tested (vomitoxin in this case) and will not provide estimates of other toxins in the sample. There are separate kits for each toxin. ELISA-based tests are generally qualitative, providing a yes/no answer for the presence of DON, or semi-quantitative, giving an estimate of DON above certain levels or within a given range. However, quantitative estimates can also be obtained using some ELISA-based test. A color-change will be indicative of vomitoxin presence in the sample. To quantify toxin concentration an additional step of assessing color quality through a well reader or spectrophotometer is required. There is a relationship between the intensity of color in the sample cup and vomitoxin, as determined by a standard curve included in the kit. ELISA’s are easy, quick and affordable, but must be performed carefully to ensure quantifiable and accurate results. Due to the test’s specificity, you must use an ELISA kit specifically designed to detect vomitoxin. In addition, the ELISA kit must be approved for the substrate to be tested (corn, DDGs, wheat, etc).

Individuals who to know what the status of grain lots they have in storage maybe can work with grain handlers with the test or if they want to do there own analysis they can obtain ELISA kits . GIPSA has approved several different types of test kits that use either fluorescence or enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technology. The commercial testmethods approved by GIPSA for official testing of barley, malted barley, corn, oats, and wheat for DON are:

Biopharm – RidaScreen Fast SC for registered users only
Charm Science – Rosa Don P/N,en/
Diachemix -DON FPA
Diagnostix – EZ- Quant, EZ- Tox
Neogen- 5/5, Agriscreen, Veratox
Romer – Accutox, Fluoroquant
Strategic Diagnostic Inc – Myco,
Vicam – Don FQ

A listing of Laboratories who will test for deoxynivalenol or DON, T-2 which are all terms for the group of toxin of concern can be found at:

December 24, 2009 at 8:30 am


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