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Peanut leaf spots (036) Print Fact Sheet

Common Name

Peanut leaf spots, early and late leaf spots of peanuts (groundnuts)

Scientific Name

Mycosphaerella arachidis (early leaf spot) and Mycosphaerella berkeleyi (late leaf spot). These are the names of the fungus that produce sexual spores. Where only asexual spores are present, the fungus is known as Passalora (Cercospora) arachidicola and Passalora (Cercosporidium) personatum, respectively.


Worldwide. Both early and late leaf spots are recorded from Australia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Late leaf spot is recorded from Guam and French Polynesia.


Peanuts, and other plants belonging to the genus Arachis.

Symptoms & Life Cycle

It is difficult to tell the two leaf spot diseases apart, except that one appears later than the other. Early leaf spot is supposed to have a more obvious yellow margin around the brown spots (Photo 1), but this is not always the case. Late leaf spot is black rather than brown on the underside of the leaf, but this is not always obvious (Photos 2&3, except when they occur together (Photo 4). Examination of the spores under a microscope is needed to tell the fungi apart.

The first sign of the diseases are spots on the older leaves. These spread rapidly to leaves of all ages. Spots also occur on the petioles. The brown or red-brown leaf spots are roughly circular up to 10 mm diameter - usually smaller - often with a yellow margin. The spots are darker on the under surface of the leaf.

Masses of spores are produced on the spots, but a hand lens is needed to see them. These are spread by wind and rain splash. The spores germinate in water on the leaf surface, infect and produce more spots and spores. The life cycle takes 10-14 days. The fungi survive in crop remains.


These are serious diseases that occur in most places where peanuts are grown. Infection causes early death of the leaves and yield loss. It is not known what losses these diseases cause in Pacific island countries, but it is likely that they reduce yields by 50%, probably much more.

Detection & Inspection

Inspect plants regularly, at least once a week, looking for spots, especially on the older leaves, where infections first occur.


Cultural control is important. The following should be done:

Before planting:

During growth:

After harvest:

There are breeding programs at ICRISAT, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, the US and Australia, to produce varieties with tolerance to late leaf spot and also rust disease. One such variety from Australia is Sutherland. Several varieties have been imported by Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands in recent years. Enquire whether these new varieties are available in your country.

In most instances, chemical control is required if growers are producing for the market. Do the following:

Use chlorothalonil. It controls leaf spots and also rust disease (see Fact Sheet no. 34). Copper fungicides can also be used.

Spray more often if:

AUTHORS Helen Tsatsia & Grahame Jackson
Photo 4 McKenzie E (2013) Passalora personata PaDIL - (

Produced with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research under project PC/2010/090: Strengthening integrated crop management research in the Pacific Islands in support of sustainable intensification of high-value crop production, implemented by the University of Queensland and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

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