You’ve gotten significant rain on your field, seen the mould clinging to the tips of your corn cobs, and you’re wondering if you’ve got a vomitoxin problem on your hands. What can you do?
Get a lab test or a test at a local elevator or buy your own commercial tester. There are laboratories that will test for vomitoxin. OMAFRA has a comprehensive list online at fieldcropnews.com. Most tests take at least two days and prices range between $20 and $40. Take at least 10 samples for the lab test. If you’re at the elevator, watch the guy testing to be sure five samples are taken from five different areas in the load.
The Canadian Grain Commission will also test for vomitoxin. But the test takes five days and costs just over $200.
Many elevators test for vomitoxin. Ondrejicka Elevators’ location at Lucan uses a scanner that can test a sample in about five minutes. You can also buy your own scanner. EnviroLogix’s Quickscan costs about $4,000.
Getting a good sample is critical, since vomitoxin levels can vary wildly even from cob to cob in one field. Sample many different plants from many different fields. OMAFRA recommends elevators not use air probes when sampling for vomitoxin, since the lighter components that tend to have higher levels of vomitoxin are more likely to get pulled in by the air probe. This can be mitigated by cleaning the corn first, since it removes many or all of those lighter particles.
If vomitoxin levels are under 3 parts per million, you’re likely just fine. Many elevators pay full price for corn up to that level. As of Oct. 24, Great Lakes Grains price discounts started at 3.1-4 ppm, costing farmers $0.25 a bushel, increasing linearly to a $1.52 discount at 8 ppm, and flat rejecting any corn above 8 ppm.
Farmers have few options when it comes to lowering vomitoxin levels. OMAFRA says there are only two ways to deal with high vomitoxin levels. Have the crop cleaned (to remove broken kernels, pieces of cobs, and the fine dust known as red dog) or dilute a load of grain with lower vomitoxin-level corn.
According to OMAFRA engineer James Dyck, research from the early 2000s shows cleaners can reduce vomitoxin levels by as much as 40 per cent.
Getting vomitoxin out of the kernels themselves is also impossible. The absolute levels of vomitoxin in corn, once the crop is thoroughly cleaned, can’t be reduced any more.
As for unsalvageable fields, Agricorp will write off a field as long as the farmer can prove his crop was rejected because of vomitoxin levels. That field, irrespective of its actual yield, will be treated as having no yield, and if that pushes your final yield below your insured yield point, you qualify for a claim.