Diagnosing fusarium head blight in cereals

A rare fungal disease occurring mainly in high rainfall areas that can significantly reduce grain yield and quality and which produces toxins affecting marketability.


Heads are partly or fully bleached.
Fusarium damaged kernals are shrivelled and pale compared to undamaged grain that is plump and golden
Wheat spikelets with Fusarium head blight are discoloured and may express orange coloured spore masses.
Fusarium head blight can express as discoloured barley spikelets, resulting from floret infection that spreads along the stalk.

What to look for


  • Scattered, bleached spikelets or heads several weeks after flowering.


  • Pink or orange spores at edge of glumes.
  • Grain shrivelled and discoloured white or pink.
  • Seedlings can be blighted in young crops sown with infected seed.

What else could it be

Condition Similarities Differences
Frost, copper and molybdenum deficiency, spring drought, crown rot and take-all
White heads Fusarium head blight can be distinguished from these by the scattered distribution of partially bleached heads, and pink / orange spores at the edge of glumes, with wet conditions

Where did it come from?

Wet or humid conditions
Wet or humid conditions
  • Risk of the disease is highest when winter cereals follow a summer cereal crop (maize, millet, sorghum) especially when stubble is retained.
  • Head infection is favoured by moisture or high humidity around flowering time.

Management strategies

  • There is no treatment available only preventative measures.
  • Avoid multiple winter cereal crops, which can promote the disease once it is established.
  • Do not sow winter cereals into summer crop paddocks until all summer residues have broken down. In addition avoid sowing winter cereals adjacent to those paddocks.

Where to go for expert help

DDLS Seed Testing and Certification
+61 (0)8 9368 3721
Page last updated: Thursday, 16 April 2015 - 10:25am