Q. What should I do to prevent mycotoxin production in silage?
A. Mycotoxins are produced by molds that depend on oxygen for growth. Therefore, preventing mycotoxin production goes hand-in-hand with rapid oxygen removal at ensiling and minimizing oxygen ingress into silage silos, bunkers or piles during storage and feedout.
Most mycotoxin production occurs on the plant in the field. To help reduce mycotoxin production producers can plant insect and disease-resistant varieties, avoid leaving stubble standing in the field and practice crop rotation. In addition, it helps to avoid or minimize the effects of plant stressors — such as inadequate fertilization or physical damage (from insects, hail, etc.) — that predispose to mold infestation and mycotoxin production.
Once forage is out of the field, there’s no one, single solution for preventing mycotoxin growth. Producers should:
- Harvest forage in a timely fashion at the right moisture level
- Use an inoculant proven to provide a fast fermentation and minimize mold growth
- Seal silage effectively
- Inspect bags or cover plastic regularly and seal any holes promptly with proper silage tape
- At feedout, maintain clean silage face and correct removal rate
The lactic acid bacteria found in inoculants help remove oxygen from the silage mass during ensiling and then rapidly reduce the pH to help prevent mold growth. One strain, Lactobacillus buchneri 40788, has been uniquely reviewed by the FDA and shown to improve aerobic stability when applied at 400,000 CFU per gram of silage or 600,000 CFU per gram of high-moisture corn (HMC). Including this strain in your silage inoculant can further reduce the potential for mycotoxin production by spoilage molds.