EUROPE – In a dynamic revelation from the Alltech 2023 European Harvest Analysis, the European continent grapples with a nuanced mycotoxin challenge as variable weather conditions wield influence over crop quality.

With over 1,100 grain and forage samples scrutinized across 20 countries, the findings spotlight a distinctive mycotoxin landscape, with northern and southern regions experiencing a stark divide.

Europe, recuperating from the throes of severe drought in recent years, encountered a twist in the tale as rains, perilously close to harvest time, caused disruptions, and opened a gateway for mold and mycotoxin development.

“Excessive rain, rather than drought, has been the primary driver of mycotoxin risk in Europe,” Dr. Radka Borutova, European Technical Support Manager at Alltech’s Mycotoxin Management team, notes.

Small grains under siege

Persistent rains at harvest triggered Fusarium-related challenges in wheat and barley crops across northern and western Europe.

Barley emerged as the high-risk contender among small grains, exhibiting an average of six mycotoxins per sample, emphasizing the complexity of the issue. The delayed harvest in these regions extended the crops’ vulnerability to mold proliferation.

While aflatoxin challenges stemming from drought conditions have dominated recent years, the 2023 corn landscape witnessed a reprieve.

Aflatoxins were detected in almost 70% of samples from central and southern Europe, averaging at 6 ppb. However, Fusarium mycotoxins, such as zearalenone and deoxynivalenol (DON), according to the report, pose considerable risks.

Corn’s overall risk, gauged using Alltech’s REQ metric, is deemed low to moderate.

Small grains, particularly barley, faced an unexpected foe in Penicillium mycotoxins, typically uncommon at harvest time.

Emerging mycotoxins took center stage, with type B trichothecenes presenting the most substantial risk. Barley, in particular, exhibited staggering levels, reaching an extraordinary maximum of almost 29,000 ppb in one Finnish sample.

Forages’ tale of two risks

For forages, the report shows that corn silage grapples with elevated risks from type B trichothecenes, while grass silage contends with Penicillium mycotoxins.

The inclusion of both in a total mixed ration (TMR) diet amplifies the risk for dairy or beef animals.

Late harvesting in northern and western Europe intensified challenges in straw, which was heavily contaminated with emerging mycotoxins.

The Alltech 2023 European Harvest Analysis underscores the dynamic and ongoing challenge of mycotoxin management for livestock producers.

Testing post-harvest provides a regional overview, but on-farm storage conditions and feeding practices significantly influence mycotoxin exposure.

Producers are urged to adopt routine testing programs for tailored risk assessments, enabling informed choices on mitigation strategies to support animal health and performance.

Established in 1980, Alltech is an American company, headquartered in Nicholasville, Kentucky, with operations in animal feed, meat, brewing, and distilling.

The company develops agricultural products for use in both livestock and crop farming, as well as products for the food industry.

Each year, as part of the European Harvest Analysis, Alltech tests more than 1,000 new crop samples in its leading-edge labs, identifying a wide range of both established and emerging mycotoxins.

“In collaboration with our expert partner, SGS, we can track mycotoxin risks in depth across 20 European countries,” the company says on its website.

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