Climate change

Climate change and mycotoxins: unraveling a complex web


With an increase in average global temperatures, thoughts are obviously turning to the impact this will have on mold growth and subsequent mycotoxin production. However, the reality is much more complex, as discussed in various studies. Factors such as carbon dioxide concentration, water stress, and extreme weather events will all impact the delicate relationship between the mold, its host plant, and its environment, including pest species and plants that influence how whose molds gain access to developing grains. The impact of climate change will not be constant but rather will depend on local environmental conditions and the specific crops grown. These factors will establish important criteria such as planting, flowering and harvest dates which, along with agricultural practices such as tillage, crop rotation and fungicide use, will determine the level of mold presence. and production of mycotoxins. Models are being developed to help predict potential outcomes. While many indicate an increased risk of key mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin, deoxynivalenol (DON), and fumonisins, some scenarios predict a reduction in the risk of mycotoxins.

Environmental sustainability: a new look at animal productivity?

What does it mean? In recent years, several published meta-analyzes have evaluated the effects of individual and multiple mycotoxins on animal performance in species for which sufficient data exist. These have shown that in pigs and poultry, individual mycotoxins have different degrees of impact on mean daily gain due to their ability to affect feed intake and feed efficiency, with the impact of several mycotoxins being more important than that of individual toxins. Historically, we would view this primarily as a loss of economic performance. However, it is now increasingly important to view this also from the perspective of reduced environmental sustainability due to the increased resource requirements, mainly for animal feed, required to achieve the target slaughter weight. This is particularly relevant for monogastric species, where the contribution of diet to the overall carbon footprint of the system is significant. The presence of mycotoxins has the net effect of increasing the carbon footprint of production by reducing feed efficiency and any additional impact on animal health.

The Green Deal and mycotoxins

The recently launched Green Deal is the European Union’s plan to make the EU economy more sustainable, with a climate neutral target for 2050. Are mycotoxins a big problem here? Preharvest management strategies – seed variety, tillage methods, crop rotation and pesticide use are all known to affect the level of mycotoxin contamination in the next crop. Given the Green Deal’s plans to increase carbon capture through more environmentally friendly tillage practices and reductions in chemical use, the number of preharvest management strategies that help to reduce the risk of mycotoxins will be reduced or removed from the farmer’s toolbox. It is difficult to predict with precision the impact that such policies will have on future levels of mycotoxins. However, given the changing landscape, both from an environmental point of view but also, in the future, from a legislative point of view, it is inevitable that producers have to adapt their businesses.

New methods for a mycotoxin management program

There have been positive developments in new and innovative areas of mycotoxin management: from biopesticides and biostimulants to competitive exclusion strategies using non-toxigenic strains of Aspergillus mussels. While these methods are not perfect, they offer positive tools for aflatoxin control, which is of particular concern from a safety and food security perspective. Other post-harvest concepts include grain cleaning and processing, which have different implications depending on the exact nature of the grain, the mycotoxins present, and the processing steps. Steps such as sieving, cleaning and heat treatment can positively affect the level of mycotoxins. However, results vary and do not result in grains without mycotoxins.

Can mycotoxin adsorbents play a role?

A recent meta-analysis of published studies where yeast cell wall extract (YCWE) (Mycosorb, Alltech) was administered to laying hens consuming diets with and without mycotoxins demonstrated that YCWE’s contribution to sustainability is significant, as calculated by Alltech E-CO2. Based on the increased feed performance of a YCWE product, he found that if Mycosorb was added to the diet of 100,000 laying hens for a period of 63 weeks, it could help reduce the overall carbon footprint of 3.76%, which is equivalent to removing 124 cars. of the road, immobilizing 221 round-trip transatlantic flights or planting 190 trees. While grain producers, especially those in Europe, appear to be faced with a restricted set of crop management tools to reduce the threat of mycotoxins, pastoralists will need to understand their production metrics from a point of view. increasingly environmental. Between these two groups of producers, the food and feed industry will need to better understand the levels of mycotoxin contamination and act accordingly in accordance with the legislative regulations in force in its jurisdiction.

References are available upon request.