Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Texas A&M University, Weslaco 78596
Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi 78406
Department of Plant Pathology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849
In March 1997, ergot was found on sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) regrowth in several abandoned commercial grain sorghum fields in Cameron and Hidalgo counties in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) of Texas. White sphacelia in florets produced honeydew containing macrospores (hyaline, oblong to oval, 10 to 25 μm × 5 to 7 μm) and microspores (hyaline, spherical, 3 μm in diameter). Macrospores germinated iteratively to form secondary conidia when placed on water agar and in situ following rain. Secondary conidia were hyaline, pyriform, with a protruding hilum, and measured 10 to 17 μm × 5 to 7 μm. High-pressure liquid chromatography analysis detected the alkaloid di-hydroergosine in sphacelia, which is unique to C. africana (1). The pathogen was also confirmed on adjacent johnsongrass (S. halepense). The spread of ergot across Texas was associated with the progressive maturation of the commercial sorghum crop as follows: LRGV (mid-May), Coastal Bend near Corpus Christi (June), Winter Garden area southwest of San Antonio (July), and the seed production region of the Texas Panhandle (mid-August). Ergot incidence ranged from a trace to 10% of the heads in (self-fertile) grain sorghum fields of the LRGV. Most heads had only a few infected florets, but a few heads had 35 to 50% of the florets infected. Only trace amounts were found in grain sorghum fields in other areas of the state. Incidence and severity of ergot were greatest in fields of male-sterile sorghums grown for forage. Ergot was generally low in primary heads of male-sterile sorghums in hybrid seed production fields but, in the absence of pollen, axillary tillers sometimes developed high levels of ergot. The major impact of sorghum ergot is expected to be in hybrid seed production fields in the High Plains of Texas.
Reference: (1) D. E. Frederickson et al. Mycol. Res. 95:1101, 1991.