World doesn’t end after fusarium, clean it

BRANDON — It’s easy to throw in the towel when looking at a bin of grain heavily damaged by fusarium.

However, feed scientist Rex Newkirk says farmers can salvage “significant value” from grain they are assuming has little.

“There’s lots of value to be had,” Newkirk, a University of Saskatchewan researcher, said after a presentation at Manitoba Ag Days.

Fusarium has dealt major damage to prairie crops over the years. Its incidence is dependant on weather and crop conditions.

The fungus infects cereal grain heads and causes the development of deoxynivalenol (DON), commonly known as vomitoxin.

DON can be dangerous for both livestock and humans, so high levels can make grain unusable for feed or food.

However, different uses have different levels of acceptability with DON, and different users can use infected grain in different ways.

Newkirk said there are a number of ways to both test and clean up grain affected by fusarium. The first step is for farmers to understand there is a difference between fusarium-damaged-kernels (FDK) and DON, and that most buyers around the world care a lot more about DON than FDK.

The next step is to get a good, representative sample, which means more than just a single scoop from a part of a bin. That will provide an accurate picture of the true levels of FDK and DON in a crop.

A number of testing technologies exist, so farmers need to figure out what kind of test they want to do.

“They’re not that expensive. They’re not that hard to use,” said Newkirk.

If high levels of FDK or DON are found in a composite sample, the farmer needs to decide whether to clean it up. There are also a number of ways to clean crops, including fractionating aspirators, gravity separators and colour sorters with some being more expensive than others.

Newkirk said DON is the key thing and urged farmers to think about more than just clearing out FDK because that is what will matter to many buyers.

“You really have to understand your options,” he said.

“Where does each (cleaning system) fit and what are the opportunities for them?”

Farmers who don’t want to clean up a crop might still be able to find a buyer for it, including grain companies that will later blend it off with cleaner crops or cattle feeders because cattle can handle double the amount of DON as pigs. A malting barley crop can have a lot of value if DON values can be knocked down far enough.

Farmers who decide to clean up affected grain might be able to salvage more than they expect. Newkirk said he has seen virtually worthless durum cleaned up to the point that $200 per tonne can be salvaged.

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