New Sorghum Disease

first_imgPreliminary reports from Australia include several detrimental affects on animals fedinfected sorghum grain. Dairy and hog producers report poor weight gain, feed refusal andreduced milk production in their animals. Wilson said this is the first time he has seen a disease progress from “insignificant to globalimpact” in just two years. Also known as honeydew disease, ergot attacks sorghum florets before the seeds areformed. The infected flowers don’t produce grain, which reduces the grain yield. “It most likely won’t affect this year’s crop,” Wilson said. “I’d be surprised if any farmerseven see it this year.” Ten days later, the disease had spread across the entire field. “This is evidence of thedisease’s tremendous capability of spreading,” he said. Researchers expect the disease to spread through Georgia. But it’s unlikely to greatlyaffect meat prices here, said George Shumaker, an Extension Service economist with theUGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Jeff Wilson, a USDA plant pathologist, has found the disease in sorghum fields at theUniversity of Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga. “They’ve been spraying with fungicides which have added $20 to the grower’s cost of a50-pound bag of seed,” Wilson said. Georgia farmers grow sorghum mainly as a hog, poultry and wild bird feed. Each yearthey harvest an average of 30,000 acres of sorghum for grain. In future years, however, Wilson said farmers may have harvesting problems with theirlate-planted sorghum due to the disease’s sticky nature. Ergot is spread by wind, rain, insects and humans. It can be transferred from field to fieldon clothing and farm equipment.center_img Ergot, a fast-spreading disease that recently caused million-dollar losses in Australia, isnow in Georgia, says a U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist. Wilson identified the first report of ergot in Georgia on Sept. 8 in a Tifton field. The firstsighting consisted of “a few isolated seed-heads.” The obvious external sign of the disease, Wilson said, is a sweet, sticky fluid exuding fromthe flowers. As the disease progresses, the sticky honeydew drops onto the seeds, leavesand ground, making the grain hard to harvest. The good news for Georgia growers is the disease’s timing. Today, after living with the disease for two seasons, Australian sorghum growers arereporting losses from 10 percent to 100 percent in hybrid seed production. The disease was first found on the Western Hemisphere in 1995 in Brazil. By ’96 it hadentered Mexico. Ergot was found in Texas in March ’97. One month ago, it was reportedin Kansas. Ergot was found in Australian sorghum fields in 1996. Less than a year later the diseasehas spread across the continent into all sorghum-producing areas. “When it costs more to produce grain,” Wilson said, “it costs more to feed animals andbuy meat products.” “Georgia sorghum is no more than 1 percent of the grain used for feed in the state,”Shumaker said. “It is hardly fed to cattle at all. Georgia farmers grow sorghum grainmainly as a feed for hogs and poultry.”last_img

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