5 ways to minimize DON’s impact on corn in the field, the bin, and pocketbooks

Corn harvest is finally underway in Ontario, and plenty of optimism abounds when it comes to the yield potential of this crop. There is a concern, however, that the challenges of a wet summer are showing up in deoxynivalenol (DON) levels in the grain.

A mycotoxin produced by the gibberella fungus, DON levels over 2 ppm can limit marketing opportunities for corn as it impacts feed uses.

Paul Hoekstra, vice president of strategic development for Grain Farmers of Ontario, says the 2023 DON survey does show elevated levels of DON in certain areas of the province.

The survey, done in conjunction with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs and the Ontario Agri-Business Association, shows 77 per cent of samples tested were under 2 ppm. That’s good news, overall; however five per cent of samples were over the 5 ppm mark, creating challenges in some areas, Hoekstra says.

DON levels increase the longer corn is left standing, so it’s important to have a plan for what to do with those fields that are at highest risk, he says. Since 2018, the worst year for DON levels in recent memory, Hoekstra says GFO and industry stakeholders have been working on development of best management practices to minimize the impact of DON during the fall harvest season.

Hoekstra says farmers should keep these five tips in mind:

  • Scout and prioritize fields with higher DON levels or higher risk of rising DON levels
  • Keep clean corn separate
  • Sample the grain properly
  • Call your buyer to discuss options, and test grain, too
  • Set the combine to get rid of fines and cob tops (for a video on why and how, tap here)

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