DON - not just the leader of a crime family

As a consequence of last year’s warm and dry summer the risk of mycotoxins being present in current grain stock is quite high. Research into the 2018 crops show DON as the most prevalent mycotoxin in Europe. But who is this DON and where does he come from?

DON is often referred to by his alias ‘Vomitoxin’ because ingestion often leads to feed refusal and sometimes vomiting. The official name is deoxynivalenol – but who wants to pronounce that? So DON it is.

DON is a mycotoxin, which means that it is a toxic secondary metabolite produced by organisms of the fungus kingdom. Fungi of the Fusarium family are usually the cause of DON. They cause Fusarium head blight on crops such as wheat and barley. Health effects of DON are relatively mild compared to a lot of other mycotoxins, but it is sure to negatively impact growth, performance and wellbeing if ingested in any sizeable quantities. What DON does is inhibit protein synthesis which causes the brain to decrease its uptake of the amino acid tryptophan and, in turn, its synthesis of serotonin. This reduction in the serotonin is responsible for the main negative effect of DON in livestock animals: feed refusal.

When DON is present in your crop at the time of harvest, it is impossible to get it out. Therefore it’s recommendable even more so than usual to dose a good mycotoxin binder in the feed. If you can help it, make sure last year’s crops are ploughed under extremely well at the end of harvest to avoid the same fusarium wreaking havoc next year. With some researchers predicting similar summers ahead a long term strategy against fusarium will help you in the long run.

Lars Brendstrup

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