Impact of agronomic and climatic factors on the mycotoxin content of harvested oats in the United Kingdom
A survey was conducted to determine the concentration of Fusarium mycotoxins in UK oats over three seasons (2006–8). One hundred oat samples were collected each year at harvest, together with agronomic details, and analysed for 10 Fusarium mycotoxins. The incidence and concentration of most Fusarium mycotoxins, including deoxynivalenol and zearalenone, were relatively low in oats compared with values previously reported for wheat. HT-2 toxin (HT2) and T-2 toxin (T2) levels were relatively high with an overall combined (HT2+T2) mean of 450 μg kg−1 for 2006–8. Data were combined with a previous dataset collected from 2002–5 to determine the effects of agronomic practices and climate. There was a negative relationship with late summer rainfall, indicating that drier conditions in July and August resulted in increased HT2 and T2 in UK oats. Agronomic factors that impacted upon HT2 and T2 in harvested oats were previous crop, cultivation, and variety. Analysis of the previous cropping history showed there was a stepwise increase in HT2+T2 as the cereal intensity of the rotation increased. Variety was an important factor, with higher levels and a wider range detected on winter versus spring varieties. Indicative levels for HT2 and T2 in cereals and cereal products were introduced by the EC in 2013. The indicative level for unprocessed oats for human consumption is a combined concentration (HT2+T2) of 1000 μg kg−1. From 2002 to 2008, between 1% and 30% of samples exceeded 1000 μg kg−1 HT2+T2 each year (overall mean, 16%). The introduction of European legislation on HT2 and T2 mycotoxins could have serious implications for UK oat production and oat-processing industries based on the levels detected within these studies.