How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines



Pathogen: Colletotrichum trifolii

(Reviewed 3/17, updated 3/17)

In this Guideline:

Symptoms and signs

Anthracnose can affect leaves and stems, but crown rot is the most important phase of the disease. The most obvious symptom is the bluish-black, V-shaped rot in the crown. Dead stems associated with such crowns are sometimes bleached white. Because stems die suddenly, the dead leaves do not drop from the stem.

Anthracnose also causes small, irregularly shaped blackened areas on stems that become large, oval, or diamond-shaped straw-colored lesions with black borders. Black fruiting bodies (acervuli), which under a hand lens look like small dots, develop in the lesion. As lesions enlarge, they may coalesce, girdle, and kill affected stems, sometimes resulting in a characteristic "shepherd crook" on top of stem. In summer and fall, dead shoots (light in color) are scattered throughout the field.

Comments on the Disease

Anthracnose is a common problem in older alfalfa stands. The fungus persists in alfalfa debris and crowns. The disease reaches maximum severity during late summer and early fall coincident with warm and humid weather. During the growing season, spores on stem lesions are a source of inoculum. Splashing rain and irrigation water disperse spores onto growing stems and petioles. Spores may also be spread with seed contaminated during the threshing process.


Control of anthracnose involves use of resistant cultivars or cultural practices. Cultivars resistant to Anthracnose are listed in the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance website. Start looking for signs of anthracnose in early summer.

Rotation with crops other than clover and alfalfa for at least two years will eliminate sources of inoculum in the field. For more information, see CROP ROTATION.


[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Alfalfa
UC ANR Publication 3430


R. M. Davis, Plant Pathology, UC Davis (Emeritus)
C. A. Frate, UC Cooperative Extension, Tulare County (Emeritus)
D. H. Putnam, Plant Sciences, UC Davis

Top of page

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
All contents copyright © 2017 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Accessibility   Contact webmaster.