Clubroot inspections underway in central Alberta
Inspectors in Red Deer and Mountain View Counties are on the lookout for clubroot, a soil-borne disease that affects cruciferous crops such as canola, mustard and some vegetables, say officials.
In severe cases, yield loss caused by clubroot can be as high as 50 per cent, making it a serious problem for farmers, Art Preachuk, agriculture fieldman for Red Deer County, told the Gazette.
Officials are making a concerted effort this summer to keep the problem localized and keep it from spreading.
“Red Deer County found one infected field last year,” said Preachuk, who started seasonal inspections on Aug. 10. He noted that his team will be inspecting until the snow flies.
“We’ll be spot checking all over the county to see if we find any clubroot and what we want to do is urge all our producers to be checking for themselves,” he said. “It’s critical that if producers do find it, that they manage it.”
Growers who do find clubroot need to take steps to avoid spreading it, such as strictly rotating canola on a four-year cycle, as well as sterilizing equipment used in the infected fields, he said.
“If they do that, then they have a chance to keep it at a minimal level for a long time,” he said.
Preachuk said that this year in Red Deer County, there are approximately 1,100 fields of canola.
“Last year we had 757 so we’re up a lot on canola and we’re finding that some (producers) have seeded canola on canola,” he said.
The most important thing to do right now is to concentrate on education and awareness, he said.
“The inspections are a big part of it and if we start finding more fields with it, we can take steps from there. We keep encouraging people to keep a four year rotation and manage it strictly if they do find it in their crops,” he said.
Preventative measures have come in the form of provincial sessions in Brooks that were held over the summer, as well as getting articles into the newspapers, he said.
“Every season, there’s something to do and the thing to do now is scout. If you find it, then it sets you up for next year, like what you plant where, and how you mix up your crops,” he said.
Preachuk added that checking fields is an easy process.
“All you have to do is pull the plants and check the roots for swelling and see if there are any clubs there. They might be big or small, but if there’s anything irregular, producers can get it checked out by sending it to 20/20 Labs in Leduc,” he said.
As far as Mountain View County is concerned, Jane Fulton, manager of agriculture for MVC, said that clubroot is something that her team actively looks for.
“Currently county agricultural staff is out looking at fields and contacting landowners for their consent for participation in our clubroot inspections,” said Fulton.
Fields are selected at random, with priority for inspections given to fields of canola that appear to be showing symptoms of clubroot, she said.
“Symptoms include wilting, stunting, yellowing and early maturity,” she said. “The field inspection focuses on field entrances, low areas, areas where there have been disturbances and any other high-risk areas for clubroot identified within the field.”
Fulton added that inspectors wear disposable boot covers over their footwear when inspecting fields and their vehicles never actually enter the fields.
“Any suspected infections will be confirmed by lab analysis as soon as possible,” she said.