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Farmers Fight Poisonous Wheat Fungus with Cleaning and Waiting

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Dave Wiechert of Nashville, Illinois, does good business most years cleaning seed for farmers in preparation for planting season. But this year, Wiechert is doing big business after harvest: cleaning fungus off wheat so farmers can sell it.

The "head scab" fungus can produce vomitoxin, a chemical that is poisonous to humans and livestock when consumed at high levels. This year, soft red winter wheat has been hit badly by the fungus, which develops when it rains during the crop's key growing period.

Head scab, which scientists call fusarium head blight, can hit profits of farmers and grain handlers hard, while raising costs for bread and cereal makers.

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