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Ergot in Pearl millet


Distribution of Ergot Disease 

Ergot Disease of pearl millet has been reported from India, Pakistan, and several countries in Africa. In India, the disease is present in all the states where pearl millet is cultivated.

Distribution of Ergot Disease of Pearl millet

Distribution of Ergot Disease of Pearl millet


Economic importance of Ergot Disease

Ergot sometimes destructive disease on pearl millet grain production in India. Although the disease has been known for a long time, possibly over 100 years, the first ergot epidemic was not reported until 1957. The importance of ergot as a major threat to pearl millet production was recognized in late 1960s with the cultivation of commercial hybrids. Losses in grain yield due to ergot have been estimated to be as high as 58 to 70% in hybrids. This disease assumes special importance because grain is easily contaminated by fungal bodies (sclerotia) which affect the health of human beings and animals. Normal grain contaminated with ergot infested grain when consumed by human beings induces nausea, vomiting, giddiness and in extreme cases may be fatal also.

Contamination of pearl millet seed with ergot infested ones

Contamination of pearl millet seed with ergot infested ones

Symptoms of Ergot Diseases

The ergot causing fungus infects the florets and develops in the ovaries, producing initially copious creamy (Fig.), pink, or red colored sweet sticky liquid called honey dew.

The honeydew can drip down onto the upper leaves making them sticky. Often pollen and anther sacs adhere to the honeydew. Subsequently long dark colored hard structures, sclerotia, develop from infected florets, first dark at the tip and then completely black (fig.).

Ergot in pearl millet

Management Of Ergot Diseases

The major source of primary inoculum is sclerotia already in soil from the previous crop or added at sowing with the use of contaminated seed. Disease development and spread depends on prevailing weather conditions during flowering and the timely availability of pollen.

A. Cultural control

Deep ploughing soon after harvest helps bury sclerotia in a soil at a depth which prevents their germination, thus reducing primary inoculum. Separate infested seed from normal seed by soaking in 10% salt solution. Floating light weight infested seeds are separated from normal grain which sinks to the bottom. In India, two perennial grass weeds Cenchrus ciliaris and Panicum antidotale were found to harbor the pearl millet ergot fungus.

Ergot in pearl millet    

Eradicating these two weeds from around pearl millet fields during early May / June might help reduce the inoculum.

B. Chemical control

A practical and economical fungicide spray schedule for farmers is yet to be demonstrated.

C. Host –plant Resistance

Use of resistant cultivars is the most cost-effective method for the control of Ergot Disease. Four open pollinated varieties, WC-C75, ICMS 7703, ICTP 8203, and ICMV 155 released in India are resistant to Ergot Disease.

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