Agriculture: Small Grains Pest Management Guidelines

Septoria Tritici Blotch of Wheat

  • Septoria tritici (Mycosphaerella graminicola)
  • Symptoms and Signs

    Symptoms occur on foliage as small gray dead areas that expand to irregularly shaped blotches. The blotches (lesions) begin as light green areas that appear to be limited at first by the leaf veins. The light brown lesions change to yellow areas in a few days, then to reddish brown, ending as grayish tan necrotic areas with small, black specks inside the dead areas. The black specks (pycnidia) within the lesions are the asexual fruiting structures of Septoria tritici and exude pinkish brown, column-shaped, jellylike masses of spores (conidia) upon wetting by rain or dew. These asexual conidia thus function as a source of inoculum to spread the disease within an infected field.

    Comments on the Disease

    Septoria tritici blotch affects only wheat and is an important foliar disease of wheat in the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin valleys. It is particularly severe in years of higher than average rainfall and is especially damaging when late spring rains persist after emergence of the flag leaf.

    The spores (ascospores) of the sexual stage of the pathogen, Mycosphaerella graminicola, initiate the first infections in each growing season when they are discharged into the air from sexual fruiting bodies in wheat debris remaining from previous crops. The maturation and discharge of ascospores occurs following the first fall rains. The ascospores, which are forcibly discharged and become airborne under drying conditions, serve to uniformly inoculate new plantings over wide distances. Current data indicate that ascospores can be discharged from October through April with the subsequent appearance of Septoria tritici pycnidia in lesions on wheat plants 3 to 4 weeks later. With two potential sources of inoculum for infection throughout the growing season, the major factors affecting severity of Septoria tritici blotch are temperature and moisture during the growing season. Spore germination and disease development are optimal at 60° to 77°F (16° to 25°C) when free moisture is present on the foliage. About 6 hours of leaf wetness are required for infection. Under favorable conditions of moisture and temperature, secondary cycles of infection occur every 21 to 28 days. Conversely, dry periods and warm weather prevent infection and disease spread. The disease reduces grain number, grain filling, or both, depending on whether the disease is severe only before or after anthesis versus the entire growth period of the grain.


    The fungus survives between cropping seasons primarily as M. graminicola on wheat residue. The presence of the airborne ascospores, capable of long distance spread in the wheat growing regions, means that crop rotation will not afford escape from this source of inoculum. The impact of the disease is most severe in early planted wheat (October) because the plants are exposed to the pathogen over a longer period of time during a period when weather conditions are frequently favorable to disease development. Consequently, later plantings of wheat (Nov. to Dec.) are less likely to be severely affected.

    Cultural Control

    Use resistant cultivars (see WHEAT CULTIVAR TABLE). Avoid early planting (October).

    Chemical Control

    Although normally not economical, foliar fungicides can be used to control disease outbreaks and provide partial disease control. Applications should be made between tillering and heading with the objective being to protect the flag leaf. Depending on the weather conditions from tillering to early dough stage, one or more applications may be needed.

    Common name Amount per acre** REI‡ PHI‡
    (Example trade name)   (hours) (days)
    Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first— the most effective and least likely to cause resistance are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to the pesticide’s properties, efficacy, application timing, honey bees, and environmental impact. Always read the label of the product being used.
      (Dithane M45) 2 lb 24 26
      MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NAME (NUMBER1): Multi-site contact (M3)
      COMMENTS: Do not graze cattle in treated areas before harvest. Do not make more than three applications per season.
      (Tilt) 2–4 fl oz 12 See label
      MODE-OF-ACTION GROUP NAME (NUMBER1): Demethylation inhibitor (3)
      COMMENTS: For use on wheat, barley, triticale, oats, and rye. For wheat, apply until Feekes growth stage 10.5 (full head emergence). For other grains, apply until Feekes 9 growth stage (emergence of flag leaf ligule).
    Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
    ** See label for dilution rates.
    1 Group numbers are assigned by the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) according to different modes of action. Fungicides with a different group number are suitable to alternate in a resistance management program. In California, make no more than one application of fungicides with mode-of-action group numbers 1, 4, 9, 11, or 17 before rotating to a fungicide with a different mode-of-action group number; for fungicides with other group numbers, make no more than two consecutive applications before rotating to a fungicide with a different mode-of-action group number.
    Text Updated: 02/09
    Treatment Table Updated: 07/16