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GrainGenes Pathology Report: Ergot

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Host Species
Triticum aestivum
X Triticosecale
Hordeum vulgare
Avena sativa
Secale cereale
Causal Organism
Claviceps purpurea
Ergot fungus infects wheat during flowering from spores released from sclerotia near the soil surface. Chance of infection is increased by cool, wet weather that prolongs flowering and by conditions (i.e. frost injury) that cause floret sterility. Infected florets initially exude a sticky honeydew containing spores that be spread to other florets by wind, rain and attracted insects. Infected florets eventually develop dark, hard horn-like structures called sclerotia instead of normal kernels. Barley, rye, triticale and numerous grass species are alternate hosts. Sclerotia returned to the soil with the straw and chaff or with contaminated seed stocks perpetuate the disease between cropping seasons. Ergot sclerotia also contain toxic alkaloids that reduce the value of wheat sold for food or feed.
Ergot sclerotia among normal soft white wheat kernels.
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ReferenceKephart KD (1993) Winter wheat disease management Insect and plant disease management handbook.
Reference(1987) Compendium of wheat diseases.