How the new DON testing cost-share program works

Funds will share half of the cost of DON testing or equipment purchase so farmers can know what they have in their bins

With vomitoxin (DON) levels prevalent in this year’s corn crop, the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) says a new DON testing cost-sharing initiative will help producers strategically market their grain.

Why it matters: OSCIA says the cost-sharing program will help farmers know how severe their deoxynivalenol (DON) issues are, and how to market their grain.

The program is a targeted initiative under the federal government’s Canadian Agriculture Partnership (CAP) — a five-year, $3 billion joint investment from the federal government and provinces. As the administrators of the program, Barb Caswell, protection and assurance co-ordinator for OSCIA, says, three areas are covered:

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  • testing at a laboratory or elevator;
  • purchasing test kits for DON;
  • buying equipment for testing on-farm.

How it works

The program operates at 50 per cent cost-share, up to a maximum of $2,500 per farm business location (meaning every farm with a unique Premises Identification Number). To qualify, producers must identify at least one load — regardless of how many total loads there are — of corn with DON levels above five parts per million.

Caswell says this threshold was set to reflect Agricorp’s crop insurance numbers, in part because the levels accepted at each elevator can differ based on end-buyer stipulations.

She adds the program is specifically focused on DON and not mycotoxins more generally. For this reason, a $25 funding cap for elevator testing costs and the purchasing of individual test kits applies.

Most elevators perform a free test before accepting grain. In some cases, though, she says a cost can apply — up to $100 at the high end — if it looks at more than just DON levels. Similarly, individual DON test kits range from about $25 to $35, though can be more expensive if the scope is similarly more expansive.

For the same reason, a cap of $2,500 also applies to those wishing to take the more expensive route of buying full testing equipment.

“On-farm test equipment also varies… it can run anything from $4,000 to $9,000 or more,” says Caswell. She adds farmers will then also need to purchase the necessary “consumables,” such as test strips.

Removing (some) guesswork

Ben Rosser, corn specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, says the program is a good thing from a management perspective because it reduces the barriers associated with testing.

Performing more tests in a more cost-effective way, he says, allows producers to get a handle on otherwise unexpected variability. This is particularly significant given on-farm DON tests can be used to measure infection in both stored and newly-harvested grain, as well as in corn still standing in the field.

While options for marketing corn with high DON levels are limited, Caswell reiterates the cost-share program is part of a wider commitment under CAP to address DON issues. Other areas of support announced include research into the processing and marketing of DON-infected corn, as well as strategies to reduce the impact and frequency of the toxin.

“Farmers need to know what the levels are in order to try and market the product. The funding program is that first step… it doesn’t help much after that,” says Caswell.

According to the OSCIA, all costs must have been incurred after Oct. 12, 2018, to qualify. A close date for application submission will be announced at a later time. For additional details or to access an application, producers can go to ontarioprogramguides.net or contact OSCIA at [email protected].

About the author

Contributor

Matt is a freelance writer based between Essex County and Chatham-Kent. He is interested in all things scientific, as well as rock n' roll, hunting and history. He also works with his parents on their sixth-generation family farm.

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