North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is urging farmers to have their wheat tested following the discovery of high levels of vomitoxin in wheat samples from central and northeastern areas of the state.

High levels of vomitoxin, which is a by-product of a fungus, can cause problems for humans and livestock. Vomitoxin is most often seen when wet weather occurs during the flowering and grain filling stages of development. Visible signs can include low yield, head scab and pink-tinted grain kernels, but testing is the only way to positively identify the fungus.

"To help farmers quickly determine if high levels of this fungus is in their wheat, our Food and Drug Protection Division lab will test samples submitted to the lab for free," said Troxler. "This will be a quick screening process, but additional confirmatory testing is required if farmers need to make insurance claims through the Risk Management Agency."

Two-pound samples and a completed test form should be delivered or shipped overnight by FedEx or UPS to the Feed & Forage Testing Facility, c/o NCDA&CS, 4000 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh, N.C., 27607. Forms can be downloaded at http://www.ncagr.gov/fooddrug/forms/forageanalysis.pdf or copies can be supplied by the County Extension Office.

"There is a degree of urgency in testing now because it is a critical time in the harvest process," Troxler said. "Farmers who are planning to follow their wheat crop with soybeans are under a June 30 deadline to get their beans in the ground in order to qualify for crop insurance. Farmers harvesting their wheat now may not even know this mold is in their crop and could be contaminating wheat that may already be stored in grain bins. Knowing the status of their wheat will allow farmers to address the situation and ensure their ability to market their wheat. "