The American grain industry will benefit from a new device that can detect fungal toxins on kernels more efficiently.

US Agricultural Research Service engineers combined a standard grain sorter with two infrared bands to find mycotoxins – natural, yet potentially toxic compounds produced by fungus that can cause serious illness in livestock and can be carcinogenic to humans.

In tests, one machine scan detected 80% or more of the toxins, rejecting 5% of uncontaminated corn, compared to error rates of 10% or higher for other sorting machines. Upcoming studies will look at how the machine can be calibrated to detect mycotoxins on white corn intended for human consumption and on wheat.