Ergot is a disease caused by a fungus and is present in the County. Ergot contains a toxin that is deadly to humans and animals even in low doses. Although normally found in small amounts and scattered in fields across the area, Ergot can occasionally be found in great numbers, usually in barley. The conditions that promote the growth of the fungus are high moisture levels throughout the growing season. The symptoms show up as the kernels form.  Infected kernels are dark purple to black in colour and appear larger, deformed and elongated when compared to normal seed. Ergot infected kernels are very obvious in the field as well as in uncleaned seed.

What To Look For

Ergot in barley Ergot in wheat
Ergot in oats Ergot in rye


Ergot contamination can lead to major yield loss and catastrophic damage to animals fed a ration containing the disease. There are precautions you can take to reduce or eliminate the effects of this disease:

  • Practice crop rotation, only planting cereals every second year
  • Use only clean, ergot free, certified seed
  • Apply registered seed treatment
  • Plant resistant varieties when possible
  • Do NOT feed any grain containing Ergot to livestock