North Dakota Winter Wheat Damaged by Disease

Aug 26, 2014

High Levels of Vomitoxin Put ND Winter Wheat Sales in Jeopardy

By Jean-Paul McDonald,

Some wheat farmers in North Dakota are worried that their freshly harvested winter wheat crop may be lost due to high levels of Vomitoxin – a toxin associated with scab disease which can make the grain unsafe for human and animal consumption. Some grain elevators in the state are asking farmers to bin their harvests of the affected grain until they can figure out how to best deal with the situation.

Wet weather in late June and early July created favorable conditions for the development of Vomitoxin, and some grain elevators are seeing wheat with Vomitoxin levels ten times higher than what is allowed by the US Food and Drug Administration. This obviously poses a major problem for growers with contaminated winter wheat as there are very few buyers who would accept crops with even low levels of the toxin, let alone ten times the limit permitted in the grain crop.

Winter wheat does not contain the type of genetic resistance to fungi that is often found in certain types of spring wheat. While fungicides are usually the best way to control disease outbreaks like this, they are not always 100% effective.

Winter wheat grown in North Dakota represents about three percent of the total US crop (around 24.6 million bushels are produced in the state) while spring wheat is considered to be the staple crop for the area. Grain elevators will sometimes blend affected wheat with non-diseased wheat, but this is almost certain not to happen during peak harvest times. Crop insurance agents are suggesting customers store their affected grain in bins for the time being while the issue is sorted out.

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