Black head molds of wheat

The various fungi that cause black head mold primarily live on dead plant tissue and are typically only a problem when wheat dies prematurely. Also known as sooty head molds, black head molds appear dirty and come in a variety of colors (black, white, pink, or green) depending on the causal fungi. Growing on dead leaves, stems, and heads, these fungi are of most concern when they occur on heads. If kernels become infected by certain fungi and weather is favorable, they will develop a discoloration of the seed known as black point. The best time to scout is towards the end of the season during flowering and ripening.

Black head mold on wheat head tissue. Image: M. Burrows. 
Black head molds on dead wheat plants. Image. J. Marshall. 

Injury or premature death predisposes plants to infection by fungi that cause black head molds. Sources of injury include insect damage, chemical burn, other pathogens, and frost or hail damage, among others.  

Management is not typically required for black head molds. Following best production practices will minimize stress and disease risk, and help prevent injury that contributes to black head mold development.


Gallery images: J. Marshall and M. Burrows.