Grain quality concerns abound as Iowa enters harvest seasons

The combination of drought, derecho and hot weather has Iowa crops maturing earlier than usual, and with a host of grain quality concerns.

“Storm damaged corn is on the ground and it is quickly becoming moldy which creates food safety hazards,” said Charles Hurburgh, professor and grain quality specialist in agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University. “The whole idea here is to get the producer and the crop insurance and the grain market together on determining value for the severely damaged grain, and how can we either take that as a total loss or direct it to another use, but not put it into the grain market.”

The droughted corn, on the other hand, is drying rapidly in the field. The key is monitoring for mold growth and toxin production during the drydown and harvesting quickly if scouting shows signs. Hurburgh said there is a need for communication across the board, so solutions can be reached without causing further problems down the line.

Hurburgh and the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offer the following key points of advice for growers in both the drought and storm damage area:
- Maintain contact with your crop insurance adjuster. We recommend having a conversation about how grain quality will be handled in your individual policy. It’s important to ask about the specific quality factors (test weight, damage) and feed safety factors (mycotoxins) that will be considered.
- Call your elevator to ask how or if different qualities of grain will be accepted. Ask them what factors they will look at and if there will be acceptance limits.
- Continue to scout grain in the field for quality issues (primarily mold development). Continue reporting what you find to your crop adjuster, even if there has been one visit for quantity loss determination. This could change acceptance, use and valuation. Again, ask about special markets for severely damaged corn and about the process for zero valuing if quality continues to deteriorate before harvest.
- Test the grain fed to livestock. Key factors to consider are test weight, protein and mycotoxins. A veterinarian can access and interpret testing.

Videos are available on the following topics:
- Drought and Derecho. The Iowa Grain Quality Initiative talks about the drought and derecho, with input on how these events are affecting the 2020 crop and the quality impact on corn and soybeans.
- Mycotoxin Risk. Erin Bowers, associate scientist with ISU Extension and Outreach, discusses the risk of mycotoxin contamination in Iowa grain and what to do about it. The drought and derecho are causing an increased risk for mycotoxin contamination this year.
- Silo or Grain Bags. After the loss of large amounts of grain storage so close to harvest, the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative and Dirk Maier, professor in agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State, detail a potential temporary storage solution. Silo or grain bags are a proven technology that could be deployed to deal with this temporary storage dilemma.

Additional considerations are listed on the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative website. For more information, Hurburgh can be reached at 515-294-8629 or tatry@iastate.edu. Kyle Poorman, communications manager with the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative, can be reached at 515-231-8014 or poorman@iastate.edu.

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