Preventive methods

Prevention can only reduce but can not eliminate the risk of mycotoxin contamination. Management practices to maximize plant performance and reduce plant stress can substantially decrease mycotoxin contamination. This includes pre-harvest and also harvest management practices:

Pre-harvest control

  • Breed
    Cultivation of resistant or less susceptible breeds as well as good quality seeds are important to prevent mycotoxin contamination.

  • Soil cultivation
    Inadequate soil cultivation and management of residues increases the risk of mycotoxins contamination.

  • Proper crop rotation (see figure below)
    Cropping systems in which maize is rotated with wheat or in which wheat is grown each year in the same field appear to increase the disease epidemic. Therefore it can be stated that without crop rotation there is a greater risk of mycotoxin infection.

  • Reduction of plant density

  • Adequate fertilization
    There is evidence that the use of some fertilizers can affect the contamination level of mycotoxins. This may be due to the physiological stress on the plant.

  • Weed control

  • Crop damage
    The mechanical, insect or bird damage of grains provides a good opportunity for fungal installation and damage, thus their prevention is of major importance.

In the first year the plant gets infected with fungal spores. Afterwards the fungi can colonize other plants and also settle on the soil. After harvest the maize stubble remains in the soil and they are also colonized by fungi. If there is also maize on this field in the second year, the plant will be further contaminated.

Harvest and post-harvest control

The appropriate harvest time is essential for reducing the risk of a mycotoxin contamination. In general, it could be stated that early harvest leads to lower concentrations of mycotoxins. Additionally, special attention should be paid to careful harvesting procedures.

Another important point is the usage of appropriate harvest equipment that is correctly adjusted to avoid damage of the kernel, since damaged kernels could be predisposed to infection during storage. Additionally the equipment should be free from previous harvest residues to avoid cross contamination. Moreover, Fusarium spores in the soil are a ubiquitous issue, meaning it is also important to avoid contact between the soil and the harvester machine in order to reduce the risk of mycotoxin contamination of healthy grain.

Before storage the grain should be cleaned of shrunken or damaged kernels to reduce the infection rate.

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