Major ergot scare has no foundation

17 September 1999

Major ergot scare has no foundation

REPORTS of widespread ergot infestation are unfounded, say merchants and millers. But occasional crops have been hard hit, especially Rialto.

Dalgety Agricultures Gary Hutchings says: "We did get some early samples and early results indicating a suspicion of ergot, but these havent been backed up with the rest of harvest. "Theres really no greater prevalence this year."

Mr Hutchings view is generally echoed by Camgrains Philip Darke, although he adds that some samples have contained the worst ergot he has seen in 10 years. For the second year running Rialto seems most susceptible.

"About 10% of our Rialto samples are contaminated with ergot. They seem to be isolated outbreaks – a couple of farmers with later drilled fields have had monstrous attacks – it may be due to the flowering habit of the variety," he says.

Glencores Robert Kerr reckons 20% of Rialto samples received by the company have ergot contamination this year. But general improvement in quality control may mean more on-farm detection.

Trade advice is to avoid costly rejections and clean grain before outloading. "Ergot contaminated grain is not saleable. Dress it out and dont take the risk," stresses Mr Hutchings.

On-farm dressers may be able to deal with small, fragile grass ergots, but gravity separation is the only answer for more serious large grain ergots, he says.


&#8226 Not as bad as feared.

&#8226 Isolated lots riddled with ergots.

&#8226 Rialto worst affected.

&#8226 Zero tolerance at mills.

&#8226 Gravity separation + weight loss cost £14/t.

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