Windborne spread of ergot disease (Claviceps africana) in sorghum A-lines in Zimbabwe



Ergot disease spread rapidly in Zimbabwe amongst replicated plots of male-sterile sorghum A-lines, from a group of centrally situated and precociously inoculated plants. Prominent secondary conidiation by the pathogen, Claviceps africana, on the surface of exuded honeydew provided airborne spores which were trapped in a Burkard continuous spore trap and showed diurnal peaks of concentration in air close to the primary source of inoculum. The rate of disease spread (r=0·2; range 0·14–0·58) closely matched that recorded for other plant pathogens such as Phytophthora infestans and Puccinia graminis tritici, and it is concluded that the characteristic secondary conidia of C. africana were the principal epidemiological agents within the experimental area. Ergot spread by windborne secondary conidia has significant epidemiological and economic implications for sorghum hybrid breeding in southern Africa.