The Impact Of DON

Before 1993, wheat growers hadn’t paid much attention to such terms as vomitoxin. But that year marked the first time producers, grain elevators, and millers noticeably felt the blow of the devastating mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON), with widespread incidence in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. Since then, the industry has taken notice of these more commonly used names for deoxynivalenol that has hit nearly every U.S. wheat-growing region.

Marcia McMullen, Extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State Uni­ver­sity (NDSU), has been studying diseases in cereal species for more than 25 years. She and other land-grant university plant pathologists have experienced the across-the-board impact vomitoxin has on the wheat industry with three different DON epidemics — in soft red winter wheat in 2003-04, hard red spring wheat in 2005, and hard red winter wheat in 2006-07.

The U.S. wheat industry needs high quality for both domestic and export markets. When a DON epidemic hits, growers’ crops become unmarketable or deeply devalued. Elevators face more difficulty marketing their supply. The profit margins of elevators and millers diminish as they test more loads, apply various technologies to sort out infected kernels, and reach out of their traditional buying radiuses to accommodate their customers by remaining below maximum DON tolerances.

Deoxynivalenol is a toxic substance produced by the fungus that causes a disease in wheat and barley known as Fusarium head blight, or “scab.” Because DON could pose a health risk to humans if consumed in high amounts, the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) has set guidelines for maximum DON levels allowed in finished wheat products. Any flour, bran, germ, or other wheat product entering the food industry should not exceed a DON concentration of 1 part per million (ppm). FDA has also set various advisory levels for wheat used in livestock feed. Because various technologies and processes are available to reduce DON levels in the finished wheat product vs. the raw grain, millers can set their own inbound ppm requirements — as long as the product they sell satisfies FDA guidelines.

As vice president of grain supply for Siemer Milling in Teutopolis, IL, Carl Schwinke takes on wheat quality as a priority. He explains that the milling industry’s standard for acceptable DON levels in raw grain is 2 ppm. In general, a grain supply with 2 ppm DON can become a wheat product (such as flour) with 1 ppm DON through the mill’s cleaning and blending processes. Depending on the crop’s end-use, though, different grain elevators or millers may make standards more stringent. Grain for a whole wheat end-use has a 1 ppm industry-set standard at delivery, and grain for a bran end-use usually has the criterion of 0.5 ppm at delivery.

Schwinke says that his company may accept grain with DON measures greater than 2 ppm, but only if the company believes that it can achieve the 1 ppm advisory level with the total grain supply it purchases. The grain seller will receive discounts, though, based on the DON measurement and other quality factors like test weight and amount of kernel damage.

“We process all the wheat we purchase into flour for human consumption — cookies, pastries, pancakes, all kinds of batters,” says Schwinke. “Our interest is providing that food-grade product. Frankly, we eat, too. We want the safest food products reaching the end-user, so we want those DON levels to be as low as possible.”

The Cost Of DON

“DON affects everyone in the wheat value chain,” says Schwinke. “In effect, scab stops kernel development and growth. So if scab infects the plant in earlier stages of grain development, the kernel may be smaller, shrunken, or have lighter test weight than quality wheat. The disease stops any intake of nutrients, too.”

Schwinke says that this loss is felt across the wheat industry. Producers’ yields decrease, and they see more discounts for quality and grain damage. Marketing grain becomes a bit more of a struggle for grain elevators as they try to sell what the market can absorb. Elevators might need to bin grain separately according to different levels of DON stored in their facilities. Milling yields fall, as well as millers’ profit margins. And the end-user faces a higher cost for flour.

“From the miller’s perspective, we face the problem in epidemic years of paying for higher-priced grain that originates from our normal supply territory and additional cleaning of grain that we receive from our regular suppliers,” adds Schwinke. “We conduct more testing, which requires special equipment and personnel training. Maintaining state-of-the-art wheat cleaning equipment is a large expense. DON adds a tremendous amount to our operational costs.”

Screening, airflow, and gravity tables help separate the smaller, under-developed scabby kernels from the rest of the grain, but at an expense and slow pace. Adding the cleaning step to the milling process or at the elevator, though, won’t eliminate DON from the grain supply. Late scab infections might show no visible damage but could still cause elevated DON levels.

Schwinke stresses that millers are responsible for supplying bakers and the food industry with flour that meets FDA standards, and there are no effective methods of sorting out these late-infected kernels. Thus, millers need to source wheat from other regions when DON is not properly managed in their normal buying regions.

Buying out-of-area grain adds additional transportation and freight costs to the operation. Railcar availability may be limited, potentially causing grain supply insufficiencies. Matching flour consistency becomes more difficult because the imported wheat may not have the same milling characteristics as the regional wheat normally used. All these extra expenses add to the discounts growers receive when they sell scabby wheat.

The Fight Back

Many local grain elevators, regional mills, and Extension specialists have played an integral role in educating wheat growers on DON and the fungus associated with the mycotoxin since the first scab outbreaks. They have stressed that a combination of technology and smart growing practices can reduce the potential for high DON levels and help protect wheat quality. NDSU’s McMullen suggests:

â–  Plan good crop rotation systems that plant wheat after broadleaf crops such as soybeans, canola, and flax.
â–  Avoid following corn and minimize wheat-on-wheat rotations.
â–  Choose wheat varieties with improved scab resistance.
â–  Assess the region’s scab risk using tools such as www.wheatscab.psu.edu or check to see if your own state has a risk outlook tool.
â–  Apply fungicides proactively to control and avoid diseases.

Randy Myers, Bayer Crop Science fungicide product manager, says a growing number of U.S. wheat and barley producers are relying on annual fungicide use as a proactive measure for overall crop protection.

“Annual, proactive approaches to disease management are the most effective because scab on cereals cannot be cured,” explains Myers. “If warm, humid climate conditions and moist soil are present as grain heading approaches — and the Fusarium pathogen is present — disease will develop. You don’t want to wait until you can see signs of the disease to spray, because then it’s too late to get the most out of your fungicide applications.”

Mark Huso is a retailer and crop advisor with Lake Region Grain in northeastern North Dakota. “When I discuss my crop protection strategy with my growers, I tell them that it’s just as efficient to use fungicides as it is to use herbicides,” says Huso. “I recommend fungicide use every year, and my customers see better yields and quality consistently.”

In 2008, Huso administered a strip field trial comparing the new Prosaro fungicide from Bayer CropScience with another fungicide. Although the season was virtually disease-free, the gains in yield, protein levels, and test weight gave the wheat treated with Prosaro an economic advantage over non-treatment and the other fungicide.

Across all kinds of conditions, Pro­saro has been proven to reduce mycotoxins by 50% to 60%. According to Bayer CropScience, no other fungicide reduces DON levels better on wheat and barley than Prosaro.

“In years of heavy scab pressure, this level of reduction could mean preserving the marketability of a crop,” says Myers. “In years of lighter pressure, it means producing an even better crop than expected and helping to secure premiums for high grades. With the industry’s best activity on scab while controlling a broad range of important foliar diseases, Prosaro is a hedge against quality discounts and yield losses and a weapon against scab and DON.”

The Bayer CropScience recommended application rates for Prosaro are 6.5 ounces per acre under normal conditions and 8.2 ounces per acre under high disease pressure. For optimal activity vs. scab in wheat, Prosaro should be applied at Feekes growth stage 10.51 (early flowering). The appropriate Feekes growth stage for scab suppression on barley is 10.5. In areas not threatened with scab infections, Prosaro may be applied at earlier growth stages for control of yield-limiting foliar diseases on wheat including leaf rust, stem rust, Septoria leaf blight and glume blotch, tan spot, and powdery mildew.

Leave a Reply

Fungicides Stories
FungicidesSudden Death Syndrome, Brown Stem Rot Reported In Indiana Soybeans
September 3, 2014
Farmers and retailers should be watching for symptoms of these two diseases over the next few weeks as they are best managed through preventative methods. Read More
FungicidesResearchers Target Soybean Disease With Genetic Resistance Study
August 6, 2014
University of Illinois researchers will share new information on controlling sudden death syndrome through genetic resistance at this year's Agronomy Day. Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesValent Launches New Seed Protection Fungicide For Soybeans
July 16, 2014
The INTEGO SUITE System contains the first new, novel seed protection fungicide chemistry registered in 30 years by the EPA for protection against Pythium and Phytophthora. Read More
FungicidesNew Players May Make Pest Headlines In Corn, Soybean
April 1, 2014
The usual insects and diseases took a bit of a break in 2013, but other culprits surfaced — and could return. Read More
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Latest News
Agworld Apple Watch Farm Management
EquipmentAussie Data Management Software Company Making Its Mark…
July 4, 2015
Zach Sheely, vice president of sales and operations, says that several large, well-known U.S. cooperatives (Stanislaus Farm Supply, Wilco-Winfield and Read More
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
ManagementUnited Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes Merger & Crop Update
July 2, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the reasons behind the United Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes merger and USDA’s recent Read More
Industry NewsBioSafe Adds To Sales Force
July 2, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the hire of two new members for its service team. David Britt recently joined the team Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementChesapeake Bay Clean-Up Gets Renewed Attention
July 2, 2015
The Chesapeake Bay has been called one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. It’s also one of Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
ManagementBulk Pesticide Compliance: Top 10 Areas Of Improvement …
July 1, 2015
  In honor of the 33-year run of David Letterman’s Late Show, the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA) is happy Read More
Industry NewsArysta North America Hires Midwest Sales Manager
July 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the hiring of Brian Battles as the Senior Technical Sales Manager for the Midwest Read More
Farmer on tablet
Eric SfiligojThe Never-Ending Battle Against Modern Agriculture
July 1, 2015
In the world of comic books, the character of Superman often refers to the fight to save the world as Read More
Retail FacilitiesBuilding Up Ag Retail
July 1, 2015
In the oftentimes unpredictable world we live in, it’s nice to know some things can be reliably countered on to Read More
Retail FacilitiesMaple River Grain And Agronomy Phases In Site Developme…
July 1, 2015
Marcus Construction helped Maple River Grain and Agronomy in Casselton, ND, with the design-build of its dry fertilizer, liquid chemical/seed Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Builds A New Liquid Terminal Hub For Br…
July 1, 2015
To build its new hub facility, Briggs Crop Nutrients enlisted the help of A&B Welding. The result, an efficient facility Read More
Edon Farmers Co-op
Retail FacilitiesNew Marcus Facility At Edon Farmers Co-op Provides More…
July 1, 2015
Edon Farmers Co-Op in Edon, OH, needed a new facility to consolidate outdated locations. Marcus Construction was able to design Read More
Retail FacilitiesKinder Morgan Expands Its Storage With A New Dome Barre…
July 1, 2015
Kinder Morgan wanted additional covered storage at its Dakota Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. With Read More
Retail FacilitiesHeartland Tank Protects Fertilizer From Extreme Cold At…
July 1, 2015
The Arthur Companies in Harvey, ND, enlisted the help of Heartland Tank Companies to develop a new liquid fertilizer facility Read More
The McGregor Co. fertilizer loadout
Retail FacilitiesThe McGregor Co. Partners With Kahler Automation To Cre…
June 30, 2015
Kahler Automation helped The McGregor Co. expand its Clarkston, WA, operation with unstaffed loadout technology that enables customers to pick Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Helps CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative Build…
June 30, 2015
CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative in Mooreton, ND, wanted a liquid/dry blender system that could meet the needs of its customers Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More
FungicidesHelena To Distribute Unique Summit Agro Fungicide
June 29, 2015
RANMAN 400 SC fungicide, the only fungicide with a FRAC group 21 designation, is now part of the innovative Summit Read More