December 1, 2011
Fungus hits Canada's Southwestern Ontario feed corn crops
A fungus byproduct, named vomitoxin, has affected feed corn harvested from parts of Southwestern Ontario this fall, which could sicken livestock once they eat it.
"Every year we have some degree of it and there are certainly going to be hot spots of it in the province," said Albert Tenuta, plant diseases specialist based at the Ridgetown campus of the University of Guelph.
This year, stretches of land from north of London along Elgin, Middlesex and Lambton counties were most affected by vomitoxin â€“ causing some loads of corn to be turned back or discounted by handlers at feed mills and industrial grain processors.
"More than half" the corn from the London area arriving at Wallenstein Feed and Supply has higher-than-usual vomitoxin levels, said Dr John Rheaume, manager of nutrition and technical services at the large feed processor south of Listowel.
Hogs are particularly intolerant even to low levels of vomitoxin and instinctively will refuse to eat from contaminated grain or will vomit it out, said Peter Johnson, crop specialist with the Ontario Agriculture Ministry.
Southwestern Ontario has been more affected by the blight than eastern Ontario, Tenuta said. Even on the same farms, neighbouring fields have shown dramatically different fusarium levels.
In 2006, vomitoxin was widespread across most of Ontario. This season is better but the extent and degree of infection around here "is definitely above average for sure," Tenuta said.