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Tuesday, 26 June 2018

AFLATOXIN


By Simon Munyeki

 For long farmers who have been producing cereals in the tropical climatic regions around the world have been struggling with aflatoxin poisoning which has lead to deaths of both humans and animals who consume aflatoxin contaminated food without their knowledge. Aflatoxin affect several cereal crops e.g maize, groundnuts, rice, sorghum as well as oil seeds such as sunflower and sesame, pulses, root crops eg cassava, dried chillies etc which forms the agricultural backbone of most developing countries.
Moses lokwawi issuing aflasafe
                                
The trend of aflatoxin contamination in food and feeds has been increasing over the years. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 25% world’s  food crops are contaminated with mycotoxins, while World Health Organization (WHO) estimates suggests that there are more than five billion people world wide at risk of chronic exposure to aflatoxins(WHO, 2005).
 In sub Saharan Africa, there is high exposure to aflatoxin due to continuous consumption of contaminated staple foods like maize, rice and groundnuts. Humans are further exposed to aflatoxins through animal source foods such as milk produced by animals which are fed on aflatoxin-contaminated feed.
The government has set limits for aflatoxins in food and feed In order to reduce exposure, the legal limits of aflatoxin contamination in cereals is ten parts per billion although there has been incidences where maize has been tested positive of up to a hundred times higher than the recommended amount of aflatoxin contamination especially in Makueni county.
Consumption of contaminated food causes diseases which are commonly known as  aflatoxicosis, these diseases leads to low immunity, stunted growth in children and  liver cancer which eventually leads to loss of human lives and livestock.
Aflatoxin is caused by a species of fungi called Aspergillus sp which is naturally found in soil as a saprophyte, it is also opportunistic and dominates mainly in environments rich in carbon and nitrogen such as decaying plant parts. The most common types of aflatoxins are B1, B2, G1 and G2 although B1 is the most toxic of all other types.
                                
maize at the right stage to apply aflasafe
    
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization ( KARLO) has partnered with other institutions in Africa and the world to develop Aflasafe a compound which has been tested in other parts of the world and proven to suppress the growth of the toxic aflatoxin fungus.
Aflasafe is applied by evenly broadcasting on the maize crop at the rate of 4kg of aflasafe per acre/ 10kg per hectare, once every season. It is applied two to three weeks before tussling, farmer should apply aflasafe while the soil is moist to facilitate growth of fungus found in aflasafe.           
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