Symptoms and Signs
The presence of bluish black, elongated sclerotia that replace one or more kernels of a grain spike signals an ergot infection.
Comments on the Disease
Ergot affects rye and triticale more frequently than wheat, barley, or oats. Grasses are often the main reservoir of the disease. The fungus survives as sclerotia in or on the soil, producing airborne spores in spring. The spores infect floral tissue, eventually forming sclerotia in place of grain kernels. Sclerotia are toxic to both humans and livestock.
Clean seed, crop rotation, and deep tillage help to control this disease. Sclerotia do not survive more than one year, and do not produce spores if they are buried more than 4 inches deep. There are no recommended chemical treatments for this disease.