Farmers discuss aflatoxin and insurance at annual plot tour

Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Crop insurance agent John Zitelman answers farmers questions about claims during the annual Santa Fe Agri-Leaders Plot Tour. Due to the high temperatures the meal and program were moved to the Alma Community Center. Afterwards some farmers toured the plots, which were located in nearby fields.

High temperatures and drought took its toll on the annual Santa Fe Agri-Leaders plot tour on Aug. 7, prompting a move indoors to the Alma Community Center.

However, a large number of farmers still gathered to hear seed company representatives describe their different varieties available now and in the future.

After a meal and the presentation, some farmers braved the weather to tour the plots. Each year, the Agri-leaders plant the plot to compare varieties from various seed companies. Proceeds are used to fund scholarships for Santa Fe High School students.

Because of the unusual growing season, a few other speakers were also on hand to provide information, including crop insurance agent John Zitelman of Zitelman Insurance Agency in Higginsville, and Lafayette County University of Missouri Extension specialist Whitney Wiegal.

Zitelman addressed several questions posed by area farmers, including those regarding aflatoxin.

He warned farmers to be careful when putting corn into a bin this year.

"If you do harvest it without an adjustor looking at it, you go into the elevator and they say you have aflatoxin they can work with you there," he said. "If you put it in the bin and you take it to the elevator later and they say you have aflatoxin, you are out of luck. Any dock you get is just yours to bear."

He also told farmers they probably should be talking to their insurance agents.

"You might give them a call and have them to turn in a claim. I'm pretty sure there is going to be one in corn," he said. "I'm starting to lose hope in beans. I was starting to have hope until a week and a half ago. I'm afraid we are going to have a problem in beans too."

Wiegal gave more information about aflatoxin, a hazardous toxin that comes from a mold which grows fast in drought, extreme heat and on injured corn.

"It is a carcinogenic chemical compound," he said. "It gets in the liver in humans and animals, can cause cancer."

The threshhold for humans is 20 parts per billion (ppb). There are different thresholds depending on the use for the grain, and it can be fed to some animals up to 300 ppb.

"This stuff is really potent. Just to give you some perspective, on one part per billion is one second in 38 years, one inch in 16,000 miles, and one cent in $10 million dollars," Wiegal said.

"One contaminated kernel in five pounds of grain can result in a concentration of greater than 20 parts per billion."

He recommended farmers scout their fields looking for a green-yellow, yellow-brown or a gray-green powdery mold.

"The general rule of thumb is if 10 percent of the ears have mold that covers greater than 25 percent of the ear, you really want to make sure to identify that mold," he said, adding that having mold alone does not necessarily mean it is aflatoxin.

Farmers who suspect aflatoxin should contact their insurance agent, who can conduct testing, he said.

Tests can also be sent to the University of Missouri, or taken to the local extension office, he said.

More information on aflatoxin: