Improvement of safety of corn-based feedstuffs through using more resistant hybrids and management of corn processing


The South-Eastern part of Hungary and Vojvodina share the same agro-environmental conditions, which are highly favorable for maize production. Various maize hybrids are cultivated in large areas of this region. Maize is one of the most important ingredients of feed formulations worldwide. Several fungal pathogens are able to infect maize in the field and cause various disease symptoms. Many of these pathogens also produce mycotoxins, secondary metabolites which are harmful to animals and humans. Mycotoxin contamination of maize is a worldwide threat to both safety of human food and animal feed. The most problematic mycotoxins in maize are trichothecenes and fumonisins produced by several Fusarium species, and aflatoxins produced by Aspergillus sp. These mycotoxins may cause various disease symptoms in animals. The Fusarium toxins are treated as the most important in maize in areas with temperate climate, and they cause serious losses to the farmers in the region in epidemic years. Aflatoxin contamination of maize is usually considered as a minor problem in countries with temperate climatic conditions, although recent surveys clarified that aflatoxins occurred in Northern Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia in maize samples or in milk in concentrations exceeding the EU limit. Recently, several studies have dealt with the effects of climate change on food safety, emphasizing that aflatoxin producing fungi and consequently aflatoxins are expected to become more prevalent in the temperate region. Because of the importance of maize kernel mycotoxin contamination, it is highly necessary to assess the mycobiota and mycotoxin content throughout the region immediately after harvest and during storage. There are also significant resistance differences between hybrids, with only few hybrids with good resistance. Another aim of the project is to examine the resistance levels of the hybrids most frequently cultivated in the region. Further, the effect of various physical, mechanical and chemical treatments on mycotoxin content of maize and feed will also be examined, which could be used to lower the mycotoxin burden of farm animals.

Objectives of the project

The main aim of the project is to lower mycotoxin contamination of maize, consequently feed products prepared in the region. To achieve, this aim, several activities are planned to be carried out:


Resistance screening of 20 maize hybrids in wide use in Hungary and Serbia for resistance to preharvest fungal pathogens: Fusarium sp. and Aspergillus flavus. These experiments would be conducted using artificial inoculation in field conditions. Mycotoxin content in tested hybrids will also be determined (trichothecenes, fumonisins, aflatoxins).


Examination of the mycobiota and mycotoxin contamination of maize hybrids in the field and after storage to get insight into their possible effects on animal welfare. Species identification of fungi will be done using both morphological and molecular methods. A multiplex PCR approach will be developed to identify Fusarium and Aspergillus species pathogenic to maize.


Investigation of the influence of mechanical, physical and chemical treatments and adsorbents on reduction of mycotoxin content in maize kernel and in feed for the most sensitive categories of animals. The effect of various thermal treatments on feed processing, and the warehouse stability of the resulting feed formulations will be monitored.


Identification of what farmers could do to modify their agronomic practices to reduce the risk of diseases and mycotoxin contamination. Based on the results of the resistance tests and investigation of the methods for reducing of mycotoxins and moulds, recommendations for farmers will be made related to the resistance level of the maize hybrids, optimal physical, chemical, biological methods (i.e. grain cleaning and thermal treatments), and optimal storing conditions.

Activities and impact of the project

The project will give valuable data on the susceptibility levels of the maize hybrids cultivated in the Southern Hungarian and Vojvodina regions to farmers, plant breeders, and local governments as well.

Plant breeders will benefit from the results by being able to determine resistance level of breeding material and choose the appropriate resistant lines for extensive breeding programs to obtain more resistant maize hybrids adapted to the weather conditions of this region.

Feed manufacturers and animal husbandry will benefit from the results of the mycotoxin analysis data, as they will have accurate data on the safety of maize which is used as feed ingredient.

Finally, farmers will benefit from the outcomes of the project indirectly, through having access to feed formulations which can be used more safely, and in a long term to maize sowing seeds which are more resistant to fungal infections and mycotoxin contamination.

Project homepage:
Hungary-Serbia IPA Cross-Border Co-operation Programme 2007-2013

Project implementation period:
01. 01. 2012. - 31. 12. 2013.

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This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The content of the document is the sole responsibility of the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science and Informatics, University of Szeged, Hungary and the project partners, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union and/or the Managing Authority.

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