Drought 2012: Moldy corn and crop insurance
Reducing Mycotoxin Risks
Before harvest, farmers should check their fields to see if moldy corn is present. Similarly, during harvest they should carefully monitor the grain for mold. If substantial portions of fields appear to be contaminated with mold, it does not mean that mycotoxins are present and vice versa. Appropriate grain samples should be collected and tested by a reputable lab. Work with your corn agronomist or local UW Extension agent to ensure proper samples are collected and to identify a reputable lab. If tests show high levels of aflatoxin in grain, that grain SHOULD NOT BE BLENDED with uncontaminated corn. The FDA has established a “do not blend” policy for aflatoxin due to its extreme toxicity.
If you observe mold in certain areas of the field during harvest, consider harvesting and storing that corn separately, as it can contaminate loads and the fungi causing the moldy appearance can grow on good corn during storage. Harvest corn in a timely manner, as letting corn stand late into fall promotes Fusarium ear mold. Avoid kernel damage during harvest, as cracks in kernels can promote fungal growth. Also, dry corn properly (12% or less), as grain moisture less than 12% typically inhibits fungal growth. Finally, keep storage facilities clean.
Crop Insurance Rules
Quality losses due to moldy corn are insurable losses for those with crop insurance, but to claim indemnities, growers must follow crop insurance rules. If you suspect aflatoxin or other mold issues, contact your crop insurance agent before harvesting, storing or selling the corn. Farmers will likely lose indemnities for grain quality losses if grain is harvested. If aflatoxin tests indicate contamination above safety limits (e.g., 20 ppb for aflatoxin), insured growers following proper procedures will be compensated for the reduction in value of the grain. The key is to communicate with your crop insurance agent before harvesting contaminated grain. Your crop insurance agent will tell you how to proceed: how to collect grain samples and how many samples to collect. Also, growers may be asked to leave un-harvested rows for crop loss adjustors to use to determine indemnities. Expect delays in crop loss adjustment, as the system is overwhelmed with insurance claims this year, but your crop insurance agent will be able to tell you how to proceed to confirm suspected aflatoxin contamination in order to receive indemnities if they are due.
For More Information
Contact your local UW Extension agent or the authors with questions or for more detailed information and your crop insurance agent with specific questions regarding your crop insurance coverage. Also, the USDA Risk Management Agency also has two fact sheets: