Historically, this is a wheat disease that can be
controlled with seed treatment. Common bunt is
characterized by the formation of bunt balls in the
heads of infected plants that, when crushed, release
thousands of dark spores that appear black in mass. They
also smell of rotting fish, hence the name “stinking
smut” is also attached to the name common bunt. When the
spores are released from the bunt balls during harvest,
they contaminate healthy seed or fall on the soil where
they can survive for 10 years or more. Infection occurs
from seed borne or soil borne spores near the soil
surface. Cool temperatures, during seed germination,
favor spore germination and infection of the seedling.
While the seed borne common bunt is fairly easy to
control with seed treatment, it is the soil borne phase
that is more difficult to control.