Occurrence of Fusarium Mycotoxins and Their Modified Forms in Forage Maize Cultivars

Forage maize is often infected by mycotoxin-producing Fusarium fungi during plant growth, which represent a serious health risk to exposed animals. Deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone (ZEN) are among the most important Fusarium mycotoxins, but little is known about the occurrence of their modified forms in forage maize. To assess the mycotoxin contamination in Northern Germany, 120 natural contaminated forage maize samples of four cultivars from several locations were analysed by liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS) for DON and ZEN and their modified forms deoxynivalenol-3-glucoside (DON3G), the sum of 3- and 15-acetyl-deoxynivalenol (3+15-AcDON), α- and β-zearalenol (α-ZEL, β-ZEL). DON and ZEN occurred with high incidences (100 and 96%) and a wide range of concentrations, reaching levels up to 10,972 and 3910 µg/kg, respectively. Almost half of the samples (46%) exceeded the guidance value in complementary and complete feeding stuffs for ZEN (500 µg/kg), and 9% for DON (5000 µg/kg). The DON related mycotoxins DON3G and 3+15-AcDON were also present in almost all samples (100 and 97%) with amounts of up to 3038 and 2237 µg/kg and a wide range of concentrations. For the ZEN metabolites α- and β-ZEL lower incidences were detected (59 and 32%) with concentrations of up to 423 and 203 µg/kg, respectively. Forage maize samples were contaminated with at least three co-occurring mycotoxins, whereby 95% of all samples contained four or more mycotoxins with DON, DON3G, 3+15-AcDON, and ZEN co-occurring in 93%, together with α-ZEL in 57% of all samples. Positive correlations were established between concentrations of the co-occurring mycotoxins, especially between DON and its modified forms. Averaged over all samples, ratios of DON3G/DON and 3+15-AcDON/DON were similar, 20.2 and 20.5 mol%; cultivar-specific mean ratios ranged from 14.6 to 24.3 mol% and 15.8 to 24.0 mol%, respectively. In total, 40.7 mol% of the measured DON concentration was present in the modified forms DON3G and 3+15-AcDON. The α-ZEL/ZEN ratio was 6.2 mol%, ranging from 5.2 to 8.6 mol% between cultivars. These results demonstrate that modified mycotoxins contribute substantially to the overall mycotoxin contamination in forage maize. To avoid a considerable underestimation, it is necessary to analyse modified mycotoxins in future mycotoxin monitoring programs together with their parent forms.


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