A serious soil borne disease that has been making its way across Alberta has now been officially found in Ponoka County.
Shayne Steffen manager of agricultural services for Ponoka County, found clubroot in canola fields while he was executing random sampling and visual field inspections during the month of August.
The two canola fields are located east of Hwy 2 and Steffen says the surveying of fields will continue.
Steffen says Ponoka County is trying to control the disease by advising farmers to not grow canola or other clubroot host crops for five growing seasons after clubroot is found in their field.
“Once the pest inspector finds it with a visual sample and confirms with a laboratory sample reading positive the field is then issued a notice prohibiting the growing on canola and host species for a period of five growing seasons,” said Steffen. “This means that fields found this year cannot grow canola until 2014.”
The disease is serious enough that if farmers whose fields are found with the infestation do not avoid growing canola in the next five growing seasons, the County of Ponoka will exercise the power of the pest act and take necessary action.
“If farmers grow canola within this period the County, under the authority of the Agricultural Pest Act, will destroy the crop at the owner’s expense,” said Steffen. “Also, the owner must practice sanitation requirements every time they leave the field.”
Clubroot is a major threat to canola fields because it is spread by the movement of soil and can be transferred from field to field by anything including quads, hunters, wind, water, wildlife, vehicles, equipment, etc. The seriousness of the disease is enhanced by its destruction to crops and its longevity in the soil.
“Clubroot, depending on the infection rate of the field, can significantly reduce yields to the point where it is not viable to harvest the crop,” said Steffen. “The spores last in the soil over 17 years so it drastically reduces or should eliminate canola from the rotation.”
The high canola prices this year prompted many farmers to grow the crop this season but if fields are hit by the damaging disease farmers may not see the benefits they were hoping for. If there is a 100 per cent infection rate in the field, the losses would be about 50 per cent or greater, which is less than breaking even and it may be, depending on the intensity of the clubroot, that producers will be spending more money growing canola than they will get out of it.
Steffen believes that to minimize the effects and spreading of clubroot, producers should look at spreading out their rotations of crops.
“Farmers need to start stretching out rotations and including canola every four or five years,” said Steffen. “This is just good agronomic practice anyways but with canola as the cash crop, farmers have been shortening up rotations.”
Ponoka County will continue sampling of fields into the fall and will proceed to instill sanitation procedures to farmers and industry between fields.
For more information contact Ponoka County at 403-783-3333 or visit www1.agric.gov.ab.ca.