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Ergot Infection In Saskatchewan Cereal Grains

03 October 2011
Manitoba Pork Council


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CANADA - The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture reports ergot infection of cereal grains is generating concern among end users of that grain, Bruce Cochrane writes.

Ergot, a fungal disease that thrives under moist conditions, infects cereal grains during the flowering stage and produces toxins that reduce the grain's desirability.

Grant McLean, a cropping management specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, says producers often see ergot in years when the region has cool wet springs and wet summers with extended flowering.

Grant McLean-Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture

It hasn't been as widespread this year as it has been in previous years, particularly in Saskatchewan, but there certainly has been producers particularly in some of the cereals, the durums in the western parts of Saskatchewan where producers are seeing more ergot than they would in a normal year and that's partially related to the cool wet spring that we've had combined with a long extended period, particularly when the cereals were flowering.

We've had some moist conditions and that extended the flowering period and the time that the crop was vulnerable to infection.

I think livestock producers in particular are more concerned.

They can withstand some level of ergot, depending on which class of livestock they're using, but in many cases you certainly don't want very high levels at all and looking at the quality of the product that you're potentially purchasing that may be one of the factors that may determine whether on price or grade or whether or not you have the capability to make that product useful in your particular enterprise.


Mr McLean says in most cases you can detect ergot in the field and, in a sample, you'll see the dark replacement ergot bodies that are shaped very much like the harvested grain.

He says ergot is not wanted in any significant amount for any use, whether for human consumption or for animal feeds so individuals either blend infected grain with clean rain to dilute it to acceptable levels or they attempt to clean the grain.

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