NDSU Extension - Burke County


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Dealing With DON

Dealing With DON

County Agent News
Dan Folske
September 1, 2014

 Dealing With DON

            We’ve been able to see visible signs of scab for several weeks. With harvest underway there are now reports of very high DON (also known as Vomatoxin or VOM) levels in some grains. Elevators are rejecting some loads of grain with very high levels.

            What do you do with high VOM grain? First, talk to your crop insurance agent. It is important to keep him or her in the loop and make sure you don’t do something which may affect any quality adjustments or loss payments. Scout your fields and take samples. Visual indicators of scab kernel damage indicate the possible presence of VOM but do not correlate perfectly. It is possible to have high levels of kernel damage and low VOM but more severely damaged kernels do tend to have higher VOM levels. If a field has visibly high levels of severe kernel damage you may want to take samples and have them tested before continuing harvest. I’ve heard reports of VOM in excess of 20 ppm. You certainly don’t want to mix grain with that level of VOM with other grain having very low levels. In a year of short grain storage capacity you may not want to tie up storage with grain which may not be marketable because of extreme high VOM levels. You may want to delay harvesting those fields or even consider destroying them. Again, talk to your crop insurance agent!

            Once it is in the bin, what are ;your options? Cleaning the grain can reduce VOM levels as the highest VOM levels tend to be in the most severely damaged kernels. Kernels with no discernable damage may contain VOM so cleaning will not generally eliminate the problem but if your grain has low or moderate levels, cleaning may improve marketability and reduce discount levels.

            What are the critical levels of DON for use in food and feed?

The concentrations of DON in grain are expressed as parts per million (ppm). One ppm is equivalent to 1 pound in 1million pounds, 1 penny in $10,000, 1 minute in two years, or 1 wheat kernel in 80 pounds of wheat.

             The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established DON advisory levels to provide safe food and feed. Unlike aflatoxin in corn, DON is not a known carcinogen.  Furthermore, grain with DON would have to be ingested in very high amounts to pose a health risk to humans, but it can affect flavors in foods and processing performance. Human food products are restricted to a 1-ppm level established by the FDA. This level is considered safe for human consumption. The food industry often sets standards that are more restrictive.  DON causes feed refusal and poor weight gain in some livestock if fed above the advisory levels.

FDA advisory levels are as follows:

1 ppm- Finished wheat products, such as flour, bran and germ, that potentially may be consumed by humans. The FDA does not set an advisory level for raw grain intended for milling because normal manufacturing practices and additional technology available to millers can substantially reduce DON levels in the finished wheat product. However, individual millers or food industries may have stricter requirements than 1 ppm.

10 ppm- Grains and byproducts destined for ruminating beef and feedlot cattle older than 4 months and for poultry, providing that these ingredients don’t exceed 50 percent of the diet

5 ppm- Grains and grain byproducts destined for swine, providing that these ingredients don’t exceed 20 percent of the diet

5- ppm Grains and grain byproducts destined for all other animals, providing that these ingredients don’t exceed 40 percent of the diet

             More information about about this issue can be found in NDSU Extension Bulletin PP-1302 DON (Vomitoxin) in Wheat: Basic Questions and Answers It is avail through our office and can also be found online at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/pests/pp1302.pdf

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