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Mycotoxin Survey 2019: European Harvest Results at a Glance

With the 2019 corn, wheat and barley harvest finished in Europe and initial sample and data collection complete, it is time to look at the first harvest results from this year’s BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey.


Thomas ErtelthalerAnneliese Müller

Weather warning

Unstable and often unpredictable weather conditions across Europe throughout the year shifted the beginning of the harvest in several regions.

Fumonisin (FUM), deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone (ZEN) in corn were elevated, especially in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. In comparison, barley was less affected despite increased DON levels in Central and Eastern Europe.

Results revealed increased levels of mycotoxins in corn and wheat.

Northern Europe

Contamination rates in Northern Europe were rather low compared to the rest of Europe (Table 1). ZEN and DON were found in only 8% of barley samples. The average positive (241 ppb) and maximum concentration (474 ppb) levels were slightly elevated for DON. More than half the tested samples (54%) were contaminated with T-2 toxin but concentrations were rather low (21 ppb).

Wheat samples were mainly contaminated with ZEN (59%) and DON (44%). The average contamination levels were moderate at 41 ppb and 223 ppb, respectively (maximum levels were 112 ppb and 808 ppb, respectively).

Northern Europe
Northern Europe
Contamination of DON in Northern European samples was slightly increased compared to 2018 results.
Table 1. BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey 2019 results for Northern Europe
Table 1. BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey 2019 results for Northern Europe

Central Europe

The greatest threat in Central European wheat was DON. 66% of analyzed samples were positive for this type B-trichothecene, with more than half the samples containing levels of DON above the risk threshold.

In addition, the average contamination level (1,229 ppb) and maximum level (21,980 ppb) were very high for DON. Interestingly, 38% of wheat samples were contaminated with Aflatoxin (Afla), at an average concentration of 2 ppb and a maximum concentration of 4 ppb. T-2 toxin was detected in 53% of tested samples, though the average concentration level was rather low at 32 ppb. 87% of tested wheat samples were contaminated with at least one mycotoxin.

  • Mycotoxin risk threshold levels are defined as the lowest levels that are dangerous for the most sensitive species.

Central Europe
Central Europe
Co-contamination in wheat was the rule, not the exception.

Barley samples were also mainly affected by DON. Average and maximum concentration levels were high at 1,742 ppb and 18,890 ppb, respectively. Of the 58% positive samples, almost all of them (52%) were above the risk threshold for DON. As in wheat, T-2 toxin was also found to a higher extent in barley. 67% of samples were found to be contaminated with this mycotoxin, although the average contamination level was relatively low.

In Central European corn samples aflatoxin was not a big issue, but DON was detected in 92% of the samples with 90% over the risk threshold. The average concentration was 1,026 ppb and the maximum concentration was 4,810 ppb.

Zearalenone showed a strong co-occurrence with DON, as 87% of samples were found to be contaminated with this estrogenic metabolite. In addition, average concentration (115 ppb) and maximum concentration (1,834 ppb) levels were rather high for ZEN.

Levels of FUM were also elevated in Central European corn. 65% of samples tested positive for this Fusarium toxin at an average contamination level of 623 ppb and a maximum level of 3,410 ppb. Furthermore, co-contamination of mycotoxins in corn were a big issue as almost all samples (98%) were contaminated with at least one mycotoxin.

Table 2. BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey 2019 results for Central Europe
Table 2. BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey 2019 results for Central Europe

Southern Europe

As shown in Table 3, the mycotoxin situation in wheat from Southern Europe was similar to the situation in Central Europe. DON was found in 65% of samples, with 58% being above the risk threshold. The average and maximum concentration levels were 611 ppb and 1,910 ppb, respectively.

Southern Europe
Southern Europe
88% of samples in Southern Europe tested positive for fumonisins.

An area for concern is fumonisins in corn. The prevalence of these mycotoxins was high with 88% samples testing positive. Additionally, almost half of the samples were above the risk threshold. Average and maximum levels were 1,272 ppb and 6,934 ppb, respectively.

Deoxynivalenol was found in 55% of tested corn samples and ZEN was found in 48% of corn samples. Average levels were 234 ppb and 56 ppb, respectively. Maximum levels for DON and ZEN were rather high at 770 ppb and 336 ppb, respectively. In addition, 93% of Southern European corn samples were contaminated with at least one mycotoxin, which may increase the threat of combined synergistic effects of the different metabolites.

Table 3. BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey 2019 results for Southern Europe
Table 3. BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey 2019 results for Southern Europe

Eastern Europe

Wheat in Eastern Europe was mainly contaminated with DON (Table 4). It was found in 43% of samples with an average concentration of 235 ppb and a maximum concentration of 1,616 ppb.

The situation seems to be similar in barley. Deoxynivalenol was analyzed in 57% of samples with rather high average and maximum concentration levels at 467 ppb and 3,563 ppb, respectively.

Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern European corn was the most affected commodity during this year’s harvest with DON and FUM the biggest threats.

Prevalence of FUM in corn samples was 80%, with 51% of positive samples being above the health risk threshold. Prevalence was high but so too were FUM concentration levels. Average FUM contamination was found to be as high as 3,038 ppb and the maximum recorded contamination rate was an alarming 12,520 ppb.

As already seen in other regions, Eastern European corn samples were often contaminated with DON (89% positive samples). Although the average level of 291 ppb was moderate, the maximum level of 1,540 ppb by far exceeded the risk threshold. Analysis also shows higher levels of aflatoxin in corn samples. The average concentration of 15 ppb was only slightly below the regulation limit of 20 ppb for Afla in European corn. The maximum concentration of 33 ppb exceeded the limit. Levels of T-2 toxin and Ochratoxin A (OTA) were found to be increased as well. In addition, 100% of tested corn samples were contaminated with at least one mycotoxin, causing a threat for livestock in Eastern Europe.

Table 4. BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey 2019 results for Eastern Europe
Table 4. BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey 2019 results for Eastern Europe

Results from the 2019 BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey confirm that mycotoxin contamination is again a fact and not fiction. Therefore, a state-of-the-art mycotoxin risk management and using a mycotoxin deactivating agent like Mycofix® is key for healthy livestock and efficient production.

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