News last update:6 Aug 2012

Research improves barley distillers grains

Virginia Tech and USDA researchers developed strategy that reduces barley toxins sometimes present in distillers grains used for animal feed.

The strategy modifies the ethanol fermentation process and focuses on deoxynivalenol (DON), the most common barley mycotoxin.
The research represents one step closer to developing a method to destroy the toxins that threaten animal feed.
Researchers reduced DON toxicity levels by introducing detoxifying genes to various yeasts during the ethanol fermentation process.
The team measured mash and animal feed levels, which resulted in reduced toxicity due to the genetic modification.
They found large reductions in DON via conversion (52.4% to 58.1%) during fermentation of hulless barley line VA06H-25, which contained the highest levels of DON in its starting ground grain, according to the research paper published in the online journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
Researcher Piyum Khatibi, doctoral student at Virginia Tech, said the team decided to see if the toxin could be modified to a less toxic product during fermentation. 
“In all cases, using the yeast with the added genes resulted in decreased DON as it was converted to the less toxic form,” Khatabi said.  “The study sets the foundation for modifying mycotoxins during fermentation and provides a model for future work when we find an enzyme that can actually destroy the toxin.”
Although the research covered only barley grain and toxins, it could be applied to other grain, such as corn.

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