by Abigail Hill, Sustainable Plant Systems major
Vomitoxin is the mycotoxin (fungal toxin) produced by Fusarium head blight, also known as head scab. As its name suggests, vomitoxin can cause vomiting and refusal to eat if consumed by livestock. According to The Ohio State College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), levels of vomitoxin exceeding 1-5ppm (part per million) are unfit for human and livestock consumption. CFAES also states that there is a near zero tolerance for vomitoxin in malt barley, which is used to make beer.
Head blight effects small grain crops such as wheat, oats, barley, and grasses like foxtail and bluegrass. These crops are used in making flour, bread, beer, and oats. These crops not only feed humans, but also livestock. Vomitoxins affect pigs more than other animals. Grain elevators have thresholds of how much ppm of vomitoxin they accept to try and prevent illness.
If the weather is wet and humid during the flowering stage of the crops, the infection is most likely to develop. The blight reduces yield and effects the quality of the product. Infected spikelets that make up the heads of these small grain crops, will turn a light tan/grey/brown color (depending on the crop), while the rest of the head remains green. If the infection has taken into the stem, the whole head and stem will die. Perithecia, the body that spores are discharged from, will survive the winter and will continue to grow and produce spores until decomposing in the soil.
Management factors that might help with the prevention of head blight are: Planting resistant varieties, practicing crop rotation, and spraying fungicides. There are no varieties that are completely resistant to head blight, so using more than one management plan is necessary in trying to avoid the development of this disease.
If you are interested in learning more about Head Blight and Vomitoxin, click the link below.
Abigail Hill is a student at The Ohio State University, majoring in Sustainable Plant Systems: Agronomy, with a minor in Agricultural Systems Management. She is the Vice President of the Ducks Unlimited club on campus. She was born and raised on a family farm in central Ohio. She is currently working as an Ohio State Extension Intern in Pickaway and Madison Counties.
This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.