Sclerotinia of Chickpea
Note Number: AG0453
Published: June 2008
Updated: November 2016
Sclerotinia (white mould) is a sporadic disease of chickpea but can cause significant crop losses, particularly in the wetter regions of eastern Australia. The greatest losses have occurred when chicpeas were sown in areas previously cropped to crops susceptible to scleortinia, such as sunflowers. It can be managed by using clean seed and crop rotation.
What to look for
Affected plants first wilt and rapidly die, often without turning yellow (Figure 1). Later, as the plant dries out the leaves turn a straw colour. On the surface of the root, just below ground level, small black fungal bodies called sclerotia, which are irregular in size and shape, can sometimes be seen mingled with white cottony fungal mycelium (Figure 2). In spring many water-soaked spots first appear on the stems and leaves. Early symptoms of stem infection appear as white mycelial growth (Figure 3). Affected tissues develop a slimy soft rot from which droplets of a brown liquid may exude. Infected tissues then dry out and may become covered with a web of white mycelium growth.
Sclerotinia, is caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and S. trifoliorum. The disease is usually established from sclerotia (survival bodies of the fungus) present in the soil or introduced with contaminated seed. Outbreaks are most common when very wet conditions occur in mid to late winter (July/August). The sclerotia germinate in moist soil and either directly infect roots or produce air-borne spores which attack the above ground parts of the plant. Once established, the fungus rapidly moves to adjacent healthy tissue. Within a few days of infection, plants start to wither then die. Sclerotia formed on infected plants enable the fungus to survive in the soil until the following year. Individual seeds can be infected with the fungus and/or sclerotia may be present in the seed sample. Soil-borne sclerotia are the more important disease source for causing damage to following crops. Seed infected with sclerotinia is the source of establishing the disease in otherwise sclerotinia-free areas.
Figure 1. Wilting of the growing tips of chickpea plants affected by sclerotinia.
Figure 2. Back fruiting bodies (sclerotia) formed on the tap root of a chickpea plant.
Figure 3. Chickpea plant infected by air-borne spores of sclerotinia. Water soaked lesion on the stem become covered with white, cottony, fungal mycelium.
Sclerotinia has caused significant crop losses where a substantial amount of the crop is infected. This disease has caused total crop failure where chickpeas were sown in the same paddock in successive years. However in many situations it only affects a small proportion of plants within the crop.
Kabuli chickpea are most susceptible to this disease though desi chickpea can also be badly affected under conditions favourable for the disease. Dense crops are likely to be affected, particularly under moist conditions. Grain quality can be decreased when infected with sclerotinia. It causes poor colour and shrivelled seed.
Use clean seed
Use of disease-free seed minimises the risk of disease and prevents establishment into a new area. It is important to avoid sowing chickpea in areas where the disease is known to be present. The seed harvested from infected crops should not be used for sowing.
Crop rotation is the best method of control once the disease has become established. Cereal crops are not affected by sclerotinia and provide a good disease break. Pulse crops, oilseeds, legume based pastures and capeweed are all good hosts to this disease (Table 1).
Table 1. The effect of Sclerotinia on different crops and their potential to host the pathogen
Potential severity of disease on crop
If a severe sclerotinia problem does occur, a four year break from susceptible crops is required to substantially reduce the number of sclerotia in the soil. The most practical option is to use cereals and legumes such as field peas or vetch which have some resistance to sclerotinia. In addition, burning of the disease infected stubble should be considered. Deep ploughing (5cm) will also reduce the number of sclerotia, and so minimise disease carry over. Where a minor sclerotinia problem occurs, a two year break from susceptible crops is advisable.
No commercial seed treatments or fungicides are known to manage this disease in crop.
National Variety Trials
Victorian Winter Crop Summary
Chickpea Management Package
Winter Pulse Disorders: The Ute Guide
Seed Health Testing in Pulse Crops (AG1250)
Pulse Seed Treatments and Foliar Fungicides
Contact/Services available from DEDJTR
Field Crops Pathology, Grains Innovation Park, 110 Natimuk Rd, Horsham 3400. Tel (03) 5362 2111, or the DEDJTR Customer Service Centre 136 186
This Information Note was originally written by Trevor Bretag, Kurt Lindbeck, Helen Richardson and Kristy Hobson. It was reviewed by Frank Henry and Helen Richardson, Farm Services Victoria - BioSciences Research, March 2010 and August 2012. Financial support by the GRDC is gratefully acknowledged.
Published and Authorised by:
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
1 Spring Street
This publication is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.
The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication