Milling & Grains bite-size science

Mycotoxin concerns India, boosting wheat production, biochar benefits

Warning over excessive mycotoxins in India, straw mulch boosts Mediterranean durum wheat production, and biochar benefits wheat and millet yield.

Excessive mycotoxin levels in India

Awareness of mycotoxins needs to be increased among Indian farmers to improve harvest management practises and reduce the risk of contamination, say researchers.

A recent investigation into mold and mycotoxin contamination of maize kernels in India found excessive levels of aflatoxins at all three study sites, in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu.

Maize samples from southern India were ‘highly contaminated’, according to the report published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, with some mycotoxins exceeding the maximum limits stipulated by the European Commission.

Of the 150 freshly harvested samples tested, the team identified 288 fungal isolates. Of these 140 registered positive for toxins at levels exceeding maximum legal limits, in most cases.

Within the three study areas, Fusarium was the dominant genus in Karnataka (42%) and Andhra Pradesh (46%), followed by Aspergillus (32 and 33% respectively).

In Tamilnadu, Fusarium incidence (75%) was highest, followed by Penicillium (13%) and Aspergillus (12%).


Source: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.6608
‘Mould incidence and mycotoxin contamination in freshly harvested maize kernels originated from India’
Authors: Venkataramana Mudili, Chandra Nayaka Siddaih, Madhukar Nagesh, Phanikumar Garapati, Kalagatur Naveen Kumar, Harishchandra Sreepathi Murali, Tapani Yli Mattila, Harsh Vardan Batra


Applying mulch straw for higher wheat yields

The application of between 36-100% straw mulch to durum wheat can significantly increase soil profile, crop physiology and yields in Mediterranean regions, claim scientists.

The results from two field trials carried out in Southern Italy to measure soil water content, nutrient availability, physiological traits, growth and yield, suggest that covering soil with additional straw mulch could be an effective strategy for soil and water conservation during conversion to Conservation Agriculture (CA), especially where durum wheat is the main crop.

Durum wheat was grown under increasing quantities of mulch cover (MC), from five tonnes per hectare (t ha) with 100% MC to 1.5t ha with 30% MC.

Adding 1.5t ha of straw mulch considerably boosted crop yields, although 2.5t ha were necessary to improve soil and crop physiology.

The authors noted that subsequent improvements in soil water and nutrient availability induced a higher number of spikes (ear) per unit ground area, grains per spike and per unit ground area, leading to higher yields.

Mulching also produced higher plant biomass and nitrogen levels.


Source: Field Crops Research
DOI: 10.1016/j.fcr.2014.07.008
‘Effects of straw mulch on growth and yield of durum wheat during transition to Conservation Agriculture in Mediterranean environment’
Authors: Fabio Stagnari, Angelica Galieni, Stefano Speca, Giovanni Cafiero, Michele Pisante


Biochar raises nutrient soil profile and yields

Incorporating biochar into acidic and alkaline soils can substantially increase wheat and millet yields, say scientists in China.

Researchers wanted to discover the effects of two successive rice-straw biochar applications on indigenous acidic oxisol and alkaline cambosol soil fertility.

Data revealed yield increases of 157% and 150% for wheat and millet respectively, in oxisols and yields of 19.6% and 60.6% respectively in cambosols.

Applying biochar improved nutrient availability and bulk density in both soils, as well as concentrations of potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium in oxisols, and nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus in cambosols.


Source: Soil Use and Management
DOI: 10.1111/sum.12124
‘Effects of crop-straw biochar on crop growth and soil fertility over a wheat-millet rotation in soils of China’
Authors: X. Zhao, J. W. Wang, H. J. Xu, C. J. Zhou, S. Q. Wang, G. X. Xing

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