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Don’t compromise personal health with moldy field crops
 
Even though we are already well into harvest, conversations with several farmers revealed the need to remind Farm World readers of grain quality concerns related to personal health challenges.
 Numerous broadcast and print media sources have already touched on potential molds present in many corn fields. However, it appears not all producers are aware of related human health issues.
Anyone involved with the fall harvest has sometime coughed after inhaling dust generated during the grain handling process.
 Repeated exposure to the fine airborne particles often results in the hacking up of a dark-colored phlegm. Working in such dusty conditions is often thought of as a nuisance, with additional symptoms of sore throat, congestion and eye irritation just making the grain handling an unpleasant task. Of course, people with asthma or chronic breathing challenges should avoid working in said conditions.

This year’s drought may result in an increase in dust and the production of aspergillus mold and associated alflatoxins. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, repeated exposures to moldy and dusty grain may cause two specific medical conditions with similar symptoms. In both cases, professional medical advice is recommended.

Farmer’s Lung or Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (FHP) is a fairly uncommon condition (one in 20 farmers) caused by a delayed allergic reaction to the dust. Excessive exposure could lead to permanent lung damage or limitations to work.

Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS) is a more common toxic response to dust, molds, bacteria, or toxins in the grain dust. Recovery is usually in a few days.

Common symptoms include persistent coughing, headache, chest tightness, muscle aches, fever or generally not feeling well. We all have experienced the head and muscle pains of harvest, but if those are associated with the additional symptoms mentioned, seeking medical advice is recommended.  

The purpose of the previous comments are meant to inform farm families that extra precautions should be taken this fall to avoid repeated or continuous exposure to dust. If that is not practical, use a NIOSH-approved and certified “N-95” respirator that fits properly. Individuals with heart and lung conditions should not use a respirator and should avoid dusty exposures. Contact your medical provider for more specific advice.

Add this dust/toxin awareness to your list of human safety priorities for this harvest season.  We often think about safety around large machinery in the field, around the bins and on the road, but the dust issue should also be highly rated. 

The presence of molds on ears is prevalent in many fields. As farmers have checked fields, countless findings of upright ears, tight husks and moldy ear tips have been reported. Premature kernel sprouting is being found in many of the same fields. Last week’s rainy days have likely multiplied the problems. Harvesting corn at 24-25 percent moisture is recommended, with high air flow combine settings and additional machine adjustments made to minimize dust and fines in grain hauled from the field. Use of grain cleaners at the bin to remove fines and other foreign material is suggested. Rapid dry down  of corn to 13 percent moisture is best for bin storage.  

Frosty conditions on Sept. 17 accelerated the desiccation of soybeans and escaped weeds. Rainy periods delayed combining last week, allowing many additional fields to become harvest ready.  With many soybean moisture reports already below 10 percent shattering losses are at undesirable levels.  

And then, there is wheat to plant. We are now in prime wheat seeding time, just after the Hession Fly Safe date. Cover crop seeding is a new priority for some farmers as soybeans and corn is harvested.  If fields designated for cover crops have a soybean cyst nematode history, take time to read last week’s Ohio CORN Newsletter at http://corn.osu.edu/ 
10/3/2012