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20 Per Cent of Prairie Wheat Infected by Ergot

31 October 2011

CANADA - The Canadian Grain Commission reports upwards of 20 percent of the wheat crops grown in western Canada this year have been infected to some degree by ergot.

Ergot is a fungal disease that thrives under cool damp weather conditions infecting cereal grains at the flowering stage producing toxins that reduce the grain's end use desirability.

Because of the toxicity of ergot, tolerances are tight, at .01 per cent in a No. 1 Canada Western Red Spring Wheat, .02 per cent in a No. 2 Canada Western Red Spring Wheat and .04 per cent in a No. 3 Canada Western Red Spring Wheat.

Daryl Beswitherick, the program manager quality assurance standards with the Canadian Grain Commission, says ergot infection is higher than normal this year.

Daryl Beswitherick, Canadian Grain Commission:

We've seen it all over western Canada. There's no specific pockets of it, it is fairly wide-spread.

We've seen it in all different classes of wheat but this year we've actually seen it in a little bit of barley and oats which is very rare to see it in those crops.

Again, it is fairly wide-spread and upwards of 20 percent of the wheat is infected to different levels but it does have ergot in it.

On a typical year we'd probably be around about five or six percent of the wheat would be infected with different levels of ergot.

From a grading perspective it's very easily detected in the samples being that it is black versus red. The tolerances are fairly tight but that's to protect the end use of the grain.

Even though farmers or producers may be impacted by this, there are ways to remove ergot but it is time consuming and may be costly.

If they need any grading advice on their grain they can contact one of our service centres.

Beswitherick notes ergot is toxic and that's why the tolerances are so tight.

TheCropSite News Desk

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