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Alltech European Summer Harvest Survey shows some risks across the region

December 1st, 2020 – Weather patterns have been variable across Europe throughout the 2020 growing season and have had a direct impact on the presence of specific moulds and mycotoxins across different regions.

Mycotoxins are produced by certain species of moulds and are a concern for livestock producers due to their ability to influence feed quality and subsequent animal health and performance. Samples collected from across Europe as part of the Alltech European Summer Harvest Survey have been submitted to the Alltech 37+® mycotoxin analytical services laboratory, and analysis is indicating the presence of moderate to high levels of mycotoxin risk.

The results are based on 274 samples of barley, wheat, corn, corn silage, grass silage, alfalfa, haylage, grass, peas, oats, sunflower meal, triticale and soybean. These samples are collected from farms or animal feed production sites from 15 countries across Europe including Russia, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Estonia, Republic of Lithuania, Morocco, Greece, Belarus, Croatia and Kazakhstan, and offer a representative picture of the contamination risk in all regions, with an overall moderate to high risk. Samples have shown an average of 4.4 mycotoxins, with 99.6% containing at least one mycotoxin and 96.4% containing two or more mycotoxins. Fumonisins were found in 80.7% of the samples, while 74.5% contained type B-trichothecenes.

A noticeable trend in recent years is the growing presence of emerging mycotoxins. More than 75% of samples contained this group, which includes specific mycotoxins such as beauvericin, moniliformin, phomopsin A, alternariol and enniatin A and B. Zearalenone (ZEN), a mycotoxin that can have a significant impact on the fertility of most species groups, was detected in almost 7% of samples. Aflatoxin B1 (AfB1), a member of the Aspergillus species and a particularly harmful toxin, was detected in less than 7% of the samples that have been analysed — a percentage that is potentially lower than expected considering the dryer-than-normal conditions across much of Central and Eastern Europe this year.

”Overall, the current results indicate a moderate to high mycotoxin risk across Europe this year, and producers must remain aware of how the risk and impact will vary between different species and animal groups, with breeding animals and youngstock being more susceptible,’ said Dr Radka Borutova, European technical support manager with the Alltech Mycotoxin Management team. ‘We know that feeding even low-level contaminated feeds has been shown to impact animal health and performance, so even in lower-risk scenarios, producers should not neglect the need to guard against the threat of mycotoxins.”

Summary of results by region:
• Southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, Greece and Croatia): The results from this region show that 91.3% and 80.4% of all samples were contaminated with fumonisins and emerging mycotoxins, respectively. The average concentration of fumonisins was 1,195.88 ppb, a concentration able to harm the health and performance of pigs. More than 86% of samples contained fusaric acid, which is frequently found in different feedstuffs, mainly in corn. Fusaric acid gets into many mycotoxin interactions and has a synergistic effect with other mycotoxins like fumonisins and moniliformin. AfB1 was detected in less than 6% of the samples, and the maximum concentration of 8 ppb was found in one of the Spanish samples. The maximum concentration of deoxynivalenol (DON) was found in Spain in corn silage, and the concentration was 4,903.3 ppb.

• Central Europe (Germany, Hungary and Czech Republic): Samples show contamination of fumonisins of 86.7% and 73.5% with type B-trichothecenes. The average concentration of type B-trichothecenes was 463.5 ppb, a concentration able to harm the health and performance of pigs. More than 68% contained emerging mycotoxins, a group of with increasing relevance in the past few years. AfB1 was detected in less than 4% of the samples, and the maximum concentration of 3.6 ppb was found in one of the Hungarian samples. The maximum concentration of DON was found in the Czech Republic in corn silage with a concentration of 3,921 ppb.

• The Baltics and Eastern Europe (Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan): Of the samples analysed, 70.9% were contaminated with type B-trichothecenes, fumonisins and emerging mycotoxins. The average concentration of type B-trichothecenes was 454.9 ppb. None of the samples from Eastern Europe were contaminated with zearalenone, a mycotoxin that can have a significant impact on the fertility of most species groups. AfB1 was detected in more than 10% of the samples, and the maximum concentration of 27 ppb was found in one of the Lithuanian grass silage samples. The maximum concentration of DON was found in the Republic of Lithuania in corn silage, and the concentration was 4,970.5 ppb.

• Northern Europe (Denmark): The results from this region show that 94% and 92% of all samples were contaminated with emerging mycotoxins and type B-trichothecenes, respectively. The average concentration of emerging mycotoxins was 414.4 ppb. Interestingly, 6% of samples contained ergot alkaloids, while the average concentration was 695.4 ppb and the maximum concentration was 2,037 ppb, found in barley. AfB1 was detected in less than 2.5% of the samples, and the maximum concentration of 3 ppb was found in wheat harvested in Denmark. The maximum concentration of DON was found in Denmark in barley, and the concentration was 1,351.8 ppb.

The average levels of mycotoxins identified fall below the EU-recommended levels for each of the mycotoxins when assessed individually. Only 0.36% of samples exceeded EU allowed concentration of AfB1 (20 ppb) in feed ingredients (COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 574/2011. However, the risk level for productive species based on Alltech’s risk equivalent quantity (REQ) varies from moderate to high when the multiple-mycotoxin challenge is considered.

• Pig producers should be aware that the risk level based on the average REQ for breeding sows and young piglets is deemed to be high.
• When the mycotoxin contamination levels are applied to poultry, the mycotoxin risk for breeding birds is moderate, while in broiler birds, it is low to moderate.
• In ruminants, the results from the samples analysed so far indicate a low to moderate risk in dairy cows.

There was a notable difference in the mycotoxin contamination levels of large grains (corn) and small grains (wheat, barley, oats). The average number of mycotoxins detected in corn samples was 6.4, while in small grains, it was 3.6. This variance is reflected in the REQ and risk of feeding these ingredients to specific species and animal groups. For instance, in sows and gilts, this year’s corn samples represent a higher risk of mycotoxins, but when small grains are fed to the same animals, the mycotoxin risk is deemed to be lower.

Alltech will host a webinar with Dr Radka Borutova on December 9, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. CET.

Register for the webinar, HERE.

For more information and results from the 2020 Alltech Summer Harvest Survey visit the Alltech website, HERE.