Early detection key to tackling clubroot

There's a clubroot study set to go this summer.

Getting ahead

Clubroot was confirmed in a limited number of canola fields in Saskatchewan last year in the northwest and north central areas of the province.

Provincial plant disease specialist Barb Ziesman says the disease is easier to manage when it is detected early.

"It gives us a chance to implement proactive management practices and enable us to continue to grow canola with minimum yield impact," Ziesman says.

The survey will be conducted in higher risk regions, such as areas near the Alberta and Manitoba borders. In all, 1,800 fields will be randomly selected. There will be one field surveyed in each township to gain a better understanding of the distribution and severity of clubroot.

The testing will be conducted by Ministry of Agriculture employees. Canola plants will be pulled and soil samples taken at the field entrance since this is where clubroot is most commonly first identified.

If there are visible signs of galls on the plant roots, additional samples will be taken at 10 other locations in the field.

Soil samples will be tested in a lab to determine if there are low levels of clubroot pathogen in the soil.

Making a clubroot map

"The plan is to make producers aware of the risk in the different regions," Ziesman says. "There will be a clubroot map similar to those released in Alberta and Manitoba."

The Ministry of Agriculture will work with researchers and grower groups, such as SaskCanola to ensure the information is released in a meaningful manner.

What happens if there is a positive clubroot case?

The farmer/landowner will be notified, along with the rural municipality. Clubroot is a declared pest under the Pest Control Act and that gives rural municipalities the authority to undertake prevention and enforcement measures.

Ziesman says RM's are encouraged to use a farmer-driven approach.

"We want producers to be empowered, engaged and actually have a say in how clubroot will be managed on their farm," Ziesman says.

Ziesman envisions having a professional agrologist working with the producer on a clubroot management plan. If the plan meets a minimum set of requirements and is science-based, it will become the formal agreement between the RM pest control officer and the landowner or producer.

"What we are looking for right now is a minimum standard," says Ziesman. "Some of this is going to be fine-tuned as we talk to researchers a little bit more, but we are looking for a minimum of a two-year break between susceptible crops."

Some level of field sanitation to prevent the spread of clubroot would also be included in a management plan.

"Clubroot isn't the end of the world," says Ziesman. "The key to clubroot management is to keep pathogen levels low."

Bottom line

As a declared pest under the Pest Control Act, rural municipalities have the authority to undertake prevention and enforcement measures. Ideally, agrologists and producers will work together to develop a clubroot management plan.

Article by: Neil Billinger