Ergot warning issued in Eastern Oregon

The Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center is warning grass seed growers to be alert for ergot.

The alert notes that ergot spore production is coinciding with flowering in perennial ryegrass in the Columbia Basin.

Spores typically are produced ahead of flowering.

“When they coincide, then we have big ergot years,” said Phil Hamm, director of the center and a plant pathologist.

“Chemical protection of flowers during anthesis will be important this year,” the alert states.

Ergot spores replace seeds in infected ryegrass and bluegrass plants, create a honeydew that attracts insects, adds to cleaning costs and can increase disease pressure in subsequent years.

Growers can obtain partial control through use of fungicides, Hamm said.

Hamm said the station is researching additional management techniques, including a method to delay spore production in ergot until after ryegrass fields flower.

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