Promising developments to reduce aflatoxin problem in maize

Aflatoxin control in Pakistan is a game-changing initiative for the country’s maize industry. Maize growers adopt cultural practices, such as the drying of maize cobs on concrete grounds and delaying the harvesting to reduce moisture on the standing crop.

These cultural practices, which are being recommended by maize procurement officers, ultimately serve the purpose of reducing the impact of harmful aflatoxin-causing fungi, which are still unknown to some farmers.

Apart from lacking knowledge on these fungi, maize growers are also generally unfamiliar with the harmful effects of aflatoxins, which can cause health problems for humans and livestock.

Accordingly — and in line with experimental trials conducted to test a biocontrol product AflaPakTM, a native fungal biocontrol product to outcompete the strains of aflatoxin-producing Aspergillus flavus — the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) conducted 10 awareness sessions in the major maize-growing districts of Punjab, Pakistan, including Khanewal, Vehari, Lodhran, Okara, Kasur, Sialkot and Faisalabad. These sessions were carried out in consultation with Rafhan Maize Products Co. Ltd.

The awareness sessions, which were delivered to 527 maize growers, were made possible as part of the Alfatoxin control in Pakistan project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA-FAS) and USAID.

They focused on aflatoxin and its hazards and implications on human and animal heath, as well as the management of aflatoxin, with special reference to the application of biological control technologies.

The intensity of aflatoxin exposure to maize crop is high in spring compared to autumn in Pakistan. This is owing to environmental conditions that are not conducive to the growth of aflatoxins during autumn.

To further strengthen the message of the biological control of aflatoxins in maize crop, the project team — in consultation with partners Rafhan Maize Products Co. Ltd. and Pakistan’s Crop Diseases Research Institute (CDRI), National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) — have planned to conduct a series of field trainings in major maize-growing areas in Punjab prior to the initiation of the maize spring season this year.

These trainings will help maize growers to produce safer maize, arming them with knowledge on the reduction of aflatoxin contamination by adopting the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program and through the application of AflaPakTM at recommended stages for maximum benefits.

Find out more about CABI’s work on aflatoxin control in Pakistan.

For more information, please contact: Deborah Hamilton, USDA, Tel: 202-720-0335,

Written by Dr. Babar E. Bajwa, project executive, Dr. Sabyan Faris Honey, project manager, with contributions from Dr. Hamzah Shahbaz Bhatti, Dr. Muzammil Farooq and Saqib Ali.

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