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Ergot

Ergot in wheat (Photo G. Bubb), Ergot close up & Ergot in black-grass (Photo M. Garnett)

Pathogen

Fungus

Hosts

Wheat, barley, triticale, rye, oats, grasses (esp. black-grass)

Symptoms

Infected florets exude a honey dew prior to flowering and this accumulates into a sticky yellow mass. Purple-black horn-like sclerotia (ergots) appear, which replace one or more seeds in the head. They may be up to four times the size of normal seed.

Development

Ergots remain viable in the soil for up to one year, germinating to produce infective ascospores in the summer. These infect flowers leading to the production of more ergots. Infected grains often provide the inoculum to the soil. The disease spreads by wind and rain splash although insect vectors can transfer the disease, floret to floret, at the honey dew stage.

Favourable Factors

Wet, cool weather during the flowering period.

Importance

Ergots contain poisonous alkaloids and contaminated grain cannot be used for human or livestock consumption. Little effect on yield.

Control

Identification and Management of cereal diseases

Find out more information on the key disease threats to your cereal crop. For each disease you will find out the importance of the disease in terms of potential yield penalty, how to identify the disease in its early stages and our advice on the best control strategies.

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