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Mycotoxins - the danger that awaits the feed industry after the coronavirus

26 January 20214 min reading

Ertuğrul YılmazErtuğrul Yılmaz
Korkutelim Yem
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – Operations Manager

Silo moisture level, raw material moisture level, silo ventilation systems, toxin analysis, unidentified animal deaths may be the agenda items of this year during the pre-harvest period when the contamination is most widespread.

With the pandemic caused by the coronavirus, people deeply felt the significance of food. For the continuity of food production, the food chain from grain to table should not be broken. Most people consumed food as usual during the curfews and realized how important food production for the world is. Raw materials used in feed production started to be stocked by many states during the disease process. While the world is dealing with the pandemic for a full year, the prices of both protein and grain resources have increased. Failures in the production of raw material resources, raw material stockpiling, export prohibitions, lack of effective agricultural policies have caused increases in feed prices. The most important problem to be felt after the pandemic in the world, which is going through difficult times, will be mycotoxins and their consequences with the effect of climate changes caused by global warming. Because during the pandemic we only tried to prevent the spread of the disease. Instead of focusing on sustainable food production, we started to stock up on food and raw materials, which led us to live by consuming. However, we could not think that we could not consume without producing it. Due to the pandemic, disruptions in the processes that should be completed before harvest, postponement of fertilization processes, postponement of harvest, drought due to the absence of rain in autumn give the impression that mycotoxins will be widely observed this year.

Mycotoxins are synthesized by fungi and spread very easily from soil to soil, either by wind or water, by fungal spores. Aspergillus, Penicillum and Fusarium are among the most important fungi. The most important mycotoxins are aflatoxin, ochratoxin, T-2 toxin, zearalenone, deoxynivalenol, fumonisin and these are secondary metabolites. Many of these toxins are taken by animals through feed and passed on to humans through animal products. There are studies reporting that aflatoxin, fumonisin and ochratoxin are carcinogenic agents in humans and cause various diseases. We can see from the map what types of mycotoxins exist in which countries in the world (Agromot, toximot-plus). However, I think these rates will increase with drought and climate changes. This is an important issue that the world should pay attention to after the coronavirus process.

Normally the moisture content of sweetcorn at harvest time should be below 12%. However, the lowest rate has been 16% and the highest rate has been 25%. These figures show that no matter how well we protect the corn; aflatoxin, fumonisin, T-2 toxin will reproduce anyway. High temperatures increase the risk of aflatoxin exposure. Because optimum temperatures of 24-25 degrees are very fond of aspergillus fungi. Delay in harvest time increases the risk of T-2 toxins contamination in raw materials while in the field. T-2 toxin causes problems such as kidney and liver damage. Besides, the zearalenone toxin, which I encounter a lot these days, causes infertility in cows. In addition, I think that the increase in the number of inseminations and this process leading up to slaughtering cause serious damage to the economy. We can find fumonisin in 80% of sweetcorn. This rate may reach 90% for this year.

The danger that awaits the world along with the pandemic is climate change. The mycotoxin load in the feed will increase with seasonal transitions, particularly irregular rainfall or drought, temperature differences at harvest time, uncontrolled raw material silos and environmental conditions. Most of mycotoxin contamination occurs in the pre-harvest period so we cannot decide whether mycotoxin is present or not during the harvest or at the feed mill's goods acceptance department depending on its appearance. If we test it in the example given below, everyone wants to buy the corn from the sample number 3 and 4, not the corn number 1 or 2. However, as a result of toxin analysis, the samples with the most mycotoxins are samples numbered 3 and 4. Although the image of the sample number 2 is not appreciated, it can be taken and used in compound feed since it is in the tolerable range in terms of mycotoxins (Agromot, toximot-plus). Therefore, toxin analysis should be performed in certain periods.

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