Unprecedented levels of ergot threaten wheat quality

Growers are being urged to monitor their cereal crops following high levels of ergot being found in heavily infested blackgrass areas.

The fungus, which can affect grain quality, has been found on Agrii’s research sites in Stow Longa, Cambridgeshire, and has also been reported Lincolnshire.

David Neale of Agrii says blackgrass has offered a perfect host for the disease generating ergot early and rapidly, stimulating major infections in the wheat crop.

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“If you have got blackgrass then it might be more than just a yield issue, so it will be important to monitor your grain.”

If grain contaminated with ergot is fed to stock or used in flour then there are real risk to human and animal health so, as a result, contaminated grain is rejected.

With grain prices tumbling, Mr Neale says preventing any rejections will be critical and if any ergot is found then the crop will need to be cleaned.

“You only need one ergot in a sample for it to be rejected, so diligence will be needed, and although it is not ideal having to spend money on cleaning, it has to be done.”

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