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Aflatoxin Reduction in Maize by Removal of Kernels with Compromised Structural Integrity due to Fungal Infection

Project Impacts

Aflatoxins cost U.S. maize producers an estimated $225 million per year due to loss of yield, not including mitigation costs. Aflatoxins are secondary metabolites produced mainly by the fungi Aspergillus flavus (A. flavus) and A. parasiticus after they infect certain crops or commodities in the field, or in storage under environmental conditions suitable for fungal growth and aflatoxin production. In field-grown maize, fungal infection can cause maize kernels to become lightweight, discolored, have reduced structural integrity, and under heat and drought stress, to produce aflatoxins. Under favorable environmental conditions, moldy grain in storage conditions can also produce aflatoxin in a very short period of time. To deal with this problem, maize cleaning is generally implemented before storage and also before the milling process. The overall goal of our research is to facilitate the development of consistent and cost-effective approaches for aflatoxin reduction in maize that help ensure the safety and quality of domestic food and feed supply of maize products. The research outcomes would benefit the current efforts in aflatoxin elimination and allow maximum removal of contaminated maize without excessive loss or high aflatoxin content. These results will also help to improve food safety and provide consumers with access to healthier maize products insofar as the majority of aflatoxins would be eliminated.