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Stored grain threatened by blue eye mold

Grain specialists are warning grain producers of potential fungus infestations.

The combination of temperature and humidity mean that grain producers need to be aware of the high risk of the development of blue eye mold on stored grains. The fungus grows on corn kernels.

Blue eye mold is a strain of mold that features a blue line down the center of a corn kernel, where the germ is located. The fungus invades the kernel and eats the high fat oil that is located inside the germ. There is no way to eradicate blue eye mold; however, there are ways to control the spread of the fungus.

Monitoring carbon dioxide is one way to keep track of conditions in corn bins; however, blue eye mold doesn’t grow quickly enough to give off a detectable level of heat.

“Aerating the corn with humid air, like what the state has been experiencing recently, will make the mold grow,” said Charles Hurburgh, the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach grain quality and handling specialist. “If the dew points get down to the 40s and 50s relative humidity then fans should be run,” he said. He also said that, “Grain that is still cold from the winter should not be warmed.”

Though feed mills and ethanol plants can use molded corns, blue eye kernels are graded as damaged.

Ethanol plants may purchase corn that has been affected by blue eye mold; however, they would rather not as the risk for fermentation problems are higher. The fermentation may not be as clean when moldy corn is used because the mold interferes with yeast. That can cause fermenters to get stuck, which would require corrective antibiotic use.

According to Hurburgh, there’s a two billion bushel surplus of corn this year, so there will be corn that will last into the following years. Ideally, he said, the old corn should be sold and replaced with new corn in the bins to avoid the potential for blue eye mold infestation.

Mold is a serious concern, as it can cause numerous health problems. Consuming moldy food could potentially lead to illness. Therefore, it is imperative that the potential for blue eye mold infestation be appropriately handled. The bins that the corn is stored in should be closely monitored and the humidity levels in the facilities should be kept as low as possible. If the corn becomes infected with mold, there is the potential that the entire facility could also become infected with mold. In other words, mold could start to grow on surfaces other than the corn itself.

Mold Inspection & Testing Des Moines has vast experience performing mold assessments in various types of facilities throughout the city of Des Moines and the state of Iowa. We strongly recommend anyone who stores grain to schedule routine mold tests of their facilities to ensure that the mold spore levels are at a safe amount. To speak with an MI&T representative, please call  515.200.2695.