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Use of Weather Variables to Quantify Sorghum Ergot Potential in South Africa

January 1998 , Volume 82 , Number  1
Pages  26 - 29

N. W. McLaren and B. C. Flett , Agricultural Research Council—Grain Crops Institute, Private Bag X1251, Potchefstroom, 2520, Republic of South Africa

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Accepted for publication 9 September 1997.

Quantification of resistance to ergot requires that the observed ergot severity within a sorghum line be compared with expected ergot severity (ergot potential) to compensate for differences in environmental favorability for the disease among flowering dates and seasons. The ergot potential required to induce the onset of disease is referred to as the ergot breakdown point of that line. In earlier studies, the ergot potential of a specific flowering date was defined as the mean ergot severity in all sorghum heads over all lines in the nursery which commenced flowering on that date in a genetically broad-based sorghum nursery. In this study, results of field trials enabled accurate prediction of ergot potential by using a multiple regression analysis which included three weather variables—namely, pre-flowering minimum temperature (mean of days 23 to 27 pre-flowering), mean daily maximum temperature, and mean daily maximum relative humidity (mean of days 1 to 5 post-flowering; R2 = 0.90; P = 0.91E-5). Evaluation of predicted and observed ergot severity in an independent data set gave an index of agreement of d = 0.94 and R2 = 0.84 (P = 0.106E-4), showing that ergot severity, assuming the presence of viable inoculum, can be accurately predicted. Low pre-flowering minimum temperature was associated with reduced pollen viability, which appeared to be the primary factor predisposing lines to ergot.

Additional keywords: Claviceps africana, Sorghum bicolor, sugary disease

© 1998 The American Phytopathological Society