Harvesting Grain from Scabby Fields
The following are tips to reduce the amount of scabby kernels in the harvested grain and to avoid potential health problems for combine operators and grain handlers. Scabby grain is contaminated with mycotoxins, especially vomitoxin, which is harmful to humans.
- Avoid breathing in dust from scabby fields, by using a high quality dust mask. Spores of the scab fungus (Fusarium graminearum) and small pieces of contaminated plant parts are present in the dust. Inhaling these particles may cause health problems.
- Harvest the most severely scab damaged areas, such as low areas or double seeded headlands, separately. Don’t co-mingle the most damaged grain with sounder grain.
- Turn up the air on the combine to blow out the lightest, scabby kernels back into the field.
- If rain is forecast, it may be better to harvest scabby fields at slightly higher moisture content than to wait for grain to dry down. However, this grain still needs to be dried down and maintained below 15% moisture after harvest to prevent fungal growth in storage.
- After harvest, gravity table grain separation can be used in removing more of the light-weight, scabby kernels.
- Get grain from scabby fields tested for vomitoxin before feeding, before blending, or before making a decision to discard suspect grain.