Diagnosing ergot

A fungal disease that produces toxic fruiting bodies in cereal heads and for which there are strict receival standards in place.


Hard, dry purple-black fungal bodies in place of grain in the seed head.
Ergot contaminated seed
Honeydew and ergots in barley

What to look for


  • Hard dry purple-black fungal bodies (ergots) that replace the grain in the seed head.
  • Yellow droplets of sugary slime in infected heads during flowering.

Where did it come from?

Contaminated soil
Contaminated soil
Grass weeds
Grass weeds
  • Ergots survive in the soil for up to one year, producing spores that infect plants during flowering.
  • Infection prefers cool wet weather at flowering.
  • Spread by rain-splash or by insects attracted to the sugary droplets.
  • High levels of grass-weed contamination can increase ergot infection in cereals, or ergots produced in grasses can contaminate grain samples.

Management strategies

  • Give contaminated paddocks a one-year break without cereals or grasses.
  • Manage grass weed contamination in crops.
  • Seed cleaning.

Where to go for expert help

DDLS Seed Testing and Certification
+61 (0)8 9368 3721
Page last updated: Thursday, 16 April 2015 - 10:29am