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Published July 06, 2010, 01:52 PM

Ohio wheat crop hit hard by toxin

TROY, Ohio — A toxin found at high levels this season in wheat has meant lower income for some Ohio farmers.

TROY, Ohio — A toxin found at high levels this season in wheat has meant lower income for some Ohio farmers.

Levels of vomitoxin are the worst in seven to 10 years in some areas, said Pierce Paul, a plant pathologist and small-grains specialist with the Ohio State University Extension Service. He says the toxin has thrived in parts of the state due to a cool, wet May that allowed fungus to grow.

The toxin limits use of the wheat for humans, and Paul said producers should be wary of feeding the infected wheat to livestock, particularly swine.

Roland Sink, who raises wheat in Miami County in southwest Ohio, said this year’s crop is the worst he’s harvested in 40 years. He says he’s lost about $9,000 on this year’s 125-acre crop.

Sink, 60, said he lost an average of $1.25 per bushel because of vomitoxin and the wheat’s low weight. The current bushel price is $4 and his worst load of wheat was docked by almost $3 per bushel, he said.

Vomitoxin can decrease the appetite of animals and long-term exposure can lead to gastrointestinal and immune system problems in people, according to information about wheat damage on the extension service’s web site. The site says milling and manufacturing can reduce levels of the toxin, and that finished products — such as flour — must have less than 1 part per million of the toxin if being used as food for people.

Tri-State Grain Inspection Service Inc. in Cincinnati tests wheat harvests for vomitoxin, and generally does fewer than 10 tests each day.

On Thursday, the company did nearly 50 tests, and it expected to do dozens more, said agency manager Damon Sampson. Tests have shown levels of the toxin ranging from 5 parts per million to 16 ppm.

Jim Routzahn, plant superintendent at the Troy Elevator, said levels are the highest he’s seen in 38 years. Some farmers have lost $2 or more per bushel, and many are disgruntled.

“It’s taking a lot of money out of their pockets,” he said.

At Brubaker Grain & Chemical in West Alexandria, Gary Brubaker said this year’s crop has the poorest quality in three decades, and he’s not sure where the company will sell the most damaged wheat.