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Ergot on Dallisgrass

How do you recognize ergot on Dallisgrass and what are the symptoms of ergot poisoning?

Nashville, Ark. – Due to the wet weather in August, ergot fungus is spreading in Dallisgrass stands.  Dallisgrass is not the only plant that the ergot fungus likes to target; however, it is the most susceptible. The ergot toxin, scientific name Claviceps paspali, is poisonous to cattle. The toxin affects the nervous system of cattle. 

Symptoms may include: trembling of various muscles after exercise, staggering, walking sideways, hyper excitability, backward arching of the back, downed animals, diarrhea, or eventually death. There is no cure or treatment for ergot poisoning; however, some animals are more vulnerable than others. What does this mean? Animals that have never been exposed to Dallisgrass ergot and consume it are more likely to fall ill and not recover than animals that may digest infected grasses in small amounts along with other non-infected forage. 

Some options for avoiding the toxin are to remove cattle from infected pastures and clip seed heads to prevent animals from further grazing. For infected hay, other agents have suggested to me that if a producer is going to feed one infected bale, he should feed it along with several good bales in order to avoid large consumption of the toxin (keep in mind this is dry, harvested, ergot-infected Dallisgrass).

How to recognize the toxin on Dallisgrass: The fungus attacks grasses by replacing the seed ovary with a hard structure known as an ergot. This ergot holds the fruiting body that produces spores. The spores contain the toxin. This ergot is round, about 1/8 inch in diameter with a cream colored center. As the ergot ages, it becomes gray or black and Dallisgrass seed heads appear to be covered in a “smut” substance. The ergot turns orange or rust colored from late summer into fall as the spores mature within the fruiting body. If left standing, the following summer the ergot will germinate and produce more spores that will infect healthy Dallisgrass seed heads nearby. All information obtained from Extension resources.

On the calendar for Extension:

  • Sprayer Calibration Demo at Farmers Association in Nashville, October 12, 12pm. This will be a short, informal program, not to last more than about 30 minutes.
  • Surviving the Holidays with Diabetes (a workshop) at the EH Center October 12, 9am-3pm, cost $10, pre-registration required by October 10.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate in either event or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

October is National 4-H Month! Teen Leaders club will be collecting diapers and sippy cups October 3-24 for the Layers of Love closet here in Howard County for the “4-H One Day of Service” project. More information to follow. 

Teen Leaders will also have a booth at Nashville City Park’s Halloween Trail of Treats on October 31. Be sure to bring the kids out for a fun and spooky time!

By Kaycee Davis
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Kaycee Davis
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517
kmdavis@uaex.edu

 

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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