Fusarium ear blight (scab) in small grain cereals—a review



This review of Fusarium ear blight (scab) of small grain cereals has shown that up to 17 causal organisms have been associated with the disease, which occurs in most cereal-growing areas of the world. The most common species were Fusarium graminearum (Gibberella zeae), F. culmorum, F, avenaceum (G, avenacea), F, poae and Microdochium nivale (Monographella nivalis). The disease was recorded most frequently under hot, wet climatic conditions where significant yield losses and mycotoxin accumulation in grain were reported. Possible sources of inoculum were reported as crop debris, alternative hosts and Fusarium seedling blight and foot rot of cereals. The mode of dispiersal of inoculum to ears remains unclear, but contaminated arthropod vectors, systemic fungal growth through plants, and wind and rain-splash dispersal of spores have been proposed. Infection of wheat ears was shown to occur mainly during anthesis, and it has been demonstrated that fungal growth stimulants may be present in anthers. Despite the importance of the disease, particularly during epidemic years, control methods are limited. Much effort has gone into breeding resistant wheat varieties and into improving our understanding of the possible mechanisms and genetic basis of resistance, with only moderate success. There are also surprisingly few reports of successful fungicidal or biological control of the disease in the field.