Farmers dealing with moldy corn from the summer drought can find helpful identification and management information at a Purdue Extension website that focuses specifically on corn mold problems.
The Managing Moldy Corn website was created in 2009 to help with mold problems related to late rains and a delayed harvest, but has been updated because of this year's drought.
"It's a one-stop shopping approach, a Web resource, for farmers with moldy corn," said Jim Mintert, interim director of Purdue Extension. "It gives very good information about identifying and managing the problem. From a marketing standpoint, animal nutrition in feeding that grain and managing storage of moldy corn, it's all there."
Corn molds, especially Aspergillus ear rot, have been found in fields across Indiana this harvest season.
"Aspergillus ear rot is more problematic this year than other years because of the hot, dry weather of the drought," said Kiersten Wise, Purdue Extension field crops disease specialist. "Corn planted early in the spring was stressed during pollination and throughout the growing season, and these are the conditions that favor infection by the fungus that causes Aspergillus ear rot."
Because Aspergillus ear rot is the most common mold problem this year, there is increased concern surrounding aflatoxin, a carcinogen produced by the Aspergillus fungus that can cause health problems in livestock. Grain purchasers often reject or pay lower prices for corn that tests positive for aflatoxin, so it's possible more farmers will be claiming their crops as total losses this year.
George Patrick, Purdue Extension agricultural economist, said a lot of crop insurance claims are being filed and farmers should expect the adjustment process to run significantly behind normal schedule. But moldy corn could bring more awareness to insuring crops in case of natural disasters such as drought, wind, hail or flood.
"This bad year indicates the importance of crop insurance for many producers," Patrick said. "I expect that some producers that didn't have it will be looking at policies more carefully in the future."
The website is broken down into four sections: causes and identification, feeding and animal nutrition, storage and handling and marketing and insurance. Experts and their contact information are also listed.
Each section shares a detailed list of educational publications for farmers and has a list of frequently asked questions and answers, including:
- What is a mycotoxin?
- How can I sample forages and total rations for mycotoxins?
- How can I identify what kind of mold is on my corn?
- How can I reduce the risk of ear molds next season?
- How should I store affected grain?
- What do I do if I can't feed or sell my corn?
Mintert said although the underlying cause of the corn mold is different from 2009, the website was organized so that it could be updated to help farmers deal with Aspergillus ear rot and aflatoxin this year. He expects the website will be updated again if other problems arise.