Last week, I participated in the Texas Plant Protection Conference held in College Station.

For the past 21 years, the non-profit professional Texas Plant Protection Association has sponsored educational conferences for those involved in agriculture production. This year, some of the issues we have been dealing with for years received more attention, including aflatoxin and cotton root rot.

Aflatoxin is toxin produced by a fungus that grows in some grain and oilseed crops. It is a crosscutting issue affecting both humans and animals, Dr. Tim Herrman, director of the Office of the State Chemist headquartered in College Station, said. Sampling for the fungus has been an issue for many years. Previously, without a standardized test, multiple results led to confusion among sample testing, Herrman said.

“In fact, multiple tests conducted by multiple agencies have multiple outcomes,” he said. “To help bring together these multiple activities into a single activity, with encouragement of the Texas Corn Producers Board, Office of the State Chemist advisory committee and Texas Farm Bureau, we have launched the one sample strategy.”

“The one-sample program is science-based adoption to risk management,” he added.

Herrman said contamination is both a food safety and public health issue, because at high doses the toxin can lead to serious illness, including acute liver cirrhosis and death in both humans and animals.

“At sub-lethal doses, aflatoxin exposure could increase risk of liver cancer,” he said.

The one-sample strategy is a voluntary program administered by the Office of the Texas State Chemist, a regulatory agency headquartered in College Station and part of AgriLife Research. The program incorporates U.S. Department of Agriculture sampling methods outlined in the USDA Risk Management Agency Loss Adjustment Manual Program, Herrman said.

Participants must use Federal Grain Inspection Service-approved test kits validated by the state chemist office for measuring aflatoxin up to 1,000 parts per billion.

Herrman said state chemist office field investigators conduct on-site training of grain industry personnel on how to perform sampling for aflatoxin testing using official procedures. He said the field investigators “serve as the competent authority to ensure that official procedures are followed during harvest.”

Since the one sample test began, Herrman said tests have gone from a 60 percent deviation to 23 percent current deviation on test results. For more information about the one sample program, visit http://otscweb.tamu.edu/Risk/OneSample/Default.aspx.

Another issue addressed was the control of cotton root rot, caused by Phymatotrichopsis omnivora. Dr. Tom Isakeit, Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist, reported that despite the drought of 2011, he was successful in obtaining data confirming a reduction in root rot and an increase in cotton yields with Topguard applied to the soil at planting, confirming experiments done in 2010. Isakeit also suggested they found that fungicide is not needed in very dry years as there is little root rot disease development in drought years.

Cheminova, Inc. has been working with researchers at Texas A&M University to develop Topguard fungicide for control of cotton root rot. This project has been ongoing for the last four years refining the rate of application, timing, and placement for effective and safe control of the disease.

Cheminova Inc. is supporting the Texas Department of Agriculture’s submission for a Section 18 exemption to allow use of Topguard applied at 1-2pt/ac as a T-band for control of cotton root rot for the 2012 season.