Monday, 24 August 2009

Risk of Mycotoxins Associated With Hail Damaged Corn

There is very little risk of infection of most agricultural plant crops unless the crop is damaged or stressed in some way. In a way this is similar to animals and people - aspergillosis can only take hold if the person or animal is already vulnerable to infection in some way.

In crops like maize and other 'grass-like' plants the major stress can often be shortage of water while the plant is growing or too much water during harvest time (which makes the harvest damp and requires that it is dried before storage).

There are other stresses that the farmer has to contend with in order to ward off Aspergillus and other fungi and one of those is physical damage. If a leaf breaks off or is bruised the 'wound' can be vulnerable to infection, so it is easy to see that if a crop is subjected to heavy hailstorms at the wrong time during its growth cycle (e.g. as the head or fruit is becoming quite large or ripening) then hailstones, if large enough, can severely bruise the crop. Aspergillus can readily then infect the damaged parts.

This story covers that risk, and the consequential risk of mycotoxins should the crop become infected with mycotoxin-synthesising Aspergillus to a large extent.

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