What is barley foot rot? Often known as eyespot, foot rot on barley is a fungal disease that affects barley and wheat in grain-growing regions around the world, especially in high rainfall areas. The fungus that causes barley foot rot lives in the soil, and the spores are spread by irrigation or splashing rain. Foot rot on barley doesn’t always kill the plants, but severe infections can reduce yield as much as 50 percent.
Symptoms of Barley with Foot Rot
Foot rot on barley is usually noticed in early spring, shortly after the plants emerge from winter dormancy. The first symptoms are generally yellowish-brown, eye-shaped lesions on the crown of the plant, near the surface of the soil.
Several lesions may appear on the stem, eventually joining to cover entire stems. The stems are weakened and may fall over, or they may die while still remaining upright. Spores may give the stems a charred appearance. Plants appear stunted and may mature early. Grain will likely be shriveled.
Barley Foot Rot Control
Plant disease-resistant varieties of wheat and barley. This is the most reliable and economical means of barley foot rot control.
Crop rotation isn’t 100 percent effective, but it is an important means of barley foot rot control because it reduces buildup of pathogens in the soil. Even a small amount left behind can do considerable crop damage.
Be careful not to fertilize excessively. While fertilizer doesn’t directly cause foot rot on barley, increased plant growth can favor development of the fungus.
Don’t depend on burning stubble for treating barley foot rot. It hasn’t proven to be an effective means of barley foot rot control.
A foliar fungicide applied in spring may reduce damage caused by foot rot on barley, but the number of fungicides registered for use against barley foot rot is limited. Your local cooperative extension agent can advise you on use of fungicides in treating barley foot rot.