Researchers roll out safe ways to control aflatoxins

Maize ready for shelling at Wei Wei irrigation scheme drying and sorting area in Sigor ,West Pokot. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Researchers at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have developed aflatoxin biocontrol products that will help farmers reduce losses.

The researchers have tested the efficacy of Aflasafe TZ01 and TZ02 on maize and groundnuts in four regions in Tanzania and found them safe and effective. 

To work, the products are broadcasted in the field three weeks before the flowering of the crops.

Aflatoxins have also been identified as a major problem in Kenya and other African nations.

Researchers say the two products significantly reduce aflatoxin levels in maize and groundnut by over 85 per cent. This occurred in all four regions indicating that both products are effective tools for aflatoxin mitigation in groundnut and maize.

Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize (corn), peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts. The main fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world.

Poor grain storage and inadequate drying of grain is the biggest contributor to aflatoxins.

Research has shown that smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa lose up to a third of their grain after harvest because they often use poor grain storage technologies and ineffective drying practices.

Kenya is a particular hotspot for aflatoxins, as regular studies show widespread contamination along the food chain, from maize grain to milk and meat.

Eating grains with aflatoxins has been linked to health conditions like liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Adopting these biocontrol products can help farmers across Africa produce aflatoxin-safe food, thereby improving health and increasing chances for greater income for smallholder farmers. It would also significantly increase farmers chances of meeting stringent aflatoxin thresholds imposed by local and international premium markets. 

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