Black “Sooty” Head Mold on Wheat and Barley

Bob Mulrooney, Extension Plant Pathologist;

Both barley that is still in the field and wheat that was not sprayed with fungicides are beginning to blacken in the field. The blackening of the heads is caused by several fungi that are referred to as “sooty molds”. Sooty mold fungi colonize wheat heads when wet, humid weather occurs during the latter stages of grain development and crop maturation. Molding is frequently most severe when harvest is delayed. In addition, heads that are shaded, weakened, undersized, or prematurely ripe are frequently affected by sooty molds. Head molding is also prevalent when plants are deficient in nutrients, lodged, or damaged by insects or other diseases. These molds are superficial and do not affect the grain directly or reduce test weight. This condition, although rough in appearance, does not significantly affect crop yield or test weight.

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