Misconceptions Abound on Aflatoxin Crop Insurance Coverage

Aspergillus ear rot which causes aflatoxin in corn is showing up in many field across the state this year. This could result on part of your crop being unusable for  animal feed.  There are some serious misconceptions about the proper procedures to follow, if your field is infected.  Kenneth J. Eck, ANR Educator, Dubois County, reports that “Lab tests for the mold locally have detected low levels in most samples, with mold levels expected to rapidly increase with recent rain activity in the area. Local mills and grain buyers will also be utilizing UV or “black lights” at most facilities to quickly detect to possibility of the mold in delivered corn, with some loads possibly to be diverted or stored separately at their facilities.” Randy Boberg, with Boberg Crop Insurance serving several counties in SW Indiana, reports several of his clients have reported the infestation in many different levels.


There is a clause in crop insurance coverage that will cover growers if their crop is infected with aflatoxin, but there is confusion on exactly what the rules are and what procedures need to be followed. Boberg told HAT many farmers think they need to have all their fields tested before they begin harvest or they will lose all their crop insurance benefits, “That is not the case. If you have low yields, that coverage remains in place even if you discover you have aflatoxin.”  Growers can receive additional benefits if their crops are infected under what is called a quality adjustment.


Another rumor is that farmers must get their crop tested before they can begin harvest.  Boberg says that is not exactly true, “While that sounds great, there are not enough adjusters in the whole US to accomplish that.”  He said farmers can make arrangements with their adjuster to have their grain tested in a number of ways and at different times, “In some cases the adjuster can pick up the samples at the elevator, or the farmer can leave a strip standing in the field for the adjuster to test at a later date.”  He said the adjuster can also take samples from a farmer’s truck or combine. He said the important thing is to take those arrangements with the adjuster before work begins on an infected field. Different insurance companies may have different rules, so be sure to talk with your agent.


The USDA’s Risk Management agency has about 8 pages of fine print dealing with aflatoxin, so there are differences in interpretation between different insurance companies. Boberg said there is a good deal of misinformation floating around, so be sure to check details with your agent. The one thing that is a mandated, is that grain must be tested before it does into storage, “The RMA has strict rules that, if grain is put in storage before it is tested, no additional benefits will be paid for aflatoxin infestation.” Growers are being urged to check their crop for infestation, and contact their agent if they find evidence of the mold.  Testing can be done through the Purdue ADDL lab in West Lafayette, IN or the Purdue Heeke ADDL lab at the Southern Indiana Purdue Ag Center or through numerous testing labs available through your local feed mills.


The presence of aflatoxin will affect grain quality and marketability, as well as livestock health if the grain is consumed. Aspergillus ear rot is commonly observed during hot, dry years on stressed plants such as those exhibiting symptoms of nutrient deficiency or drought stress. Feeding damage from ear-invading insects also contributes to disease development and aflatoxin contamination. Plants that grow in dry areas within a field (such as on hillsides, or light, sandy soils) will be the first to exhibit ear mold symptoms. These plants likely will be stunted with small ears.


More information about aflatoxin here


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