Sask. clubroot map highlights need for vigilance

A yield-robbing canola disease that has some prairie farmers on edge has now been confirmed in 14 rural municipalities in Saskatchewan.

On Jan. 9, the government of Saskatchewan confirmed that visible symptoms of clubroot were detected in 43 commercial canola fields last fall.

Based on cumulative testing between 2008 and 2018, the disease has now been observed in seven of the Saskatchewan’s 22 provincial crop districts.

Most of the confirmed cases were detected during a provincial clubroot survey that involved the inspection of approximately 1,500 canola fields last fall.

Other cases were reported voluntarily, by producers or private sector agronomists.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit said results of the 2018 survey, while concerning, do not represent a significant threat to canola production in Saskatchewan.

But they do emphasize the need for ongoing vigilance and education about the spread of the disease and steps that can be taken to control its impact.

“Quite frankly, I’m happy that the results were as low as they were,” Marit said.

“It’s now an education and awareness process … making sure that we take (the necessary steps) to limit the spread of clubroot throughout the province.…

“I think we’ve developed a pretty good science-based plan where we can work with landowners — whether it is through rotations or clubroot resistant varieties — to eliminate the spread of clubroot throughout the province.”

In 2018, Saskatchewan Agriculture, in partnership with SaskCanola and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, significantly expanded the scope of the province’s annual clubroot survey.

The 2018 survey looked at 1,500 fields in roughly 150 rural municipalities and 1,500 townships.

The survey focused primarily on canola production areas along the Saskatchewan-Manitoba, border as well as crop districts in northwestern and north-central Saskatchewan.

Clubroot is a soil-born pathogen that affects the roots of vegetative canola plants.

The disease restricts the plants ability to obtain water and nutrients from the soil, resulting in premature browning and reduced yields.

Marit said Saskatchewan Agriculture is working with rural municipalities and SaskCanola to ensure a farmer-driven approach to clubroot management.

Landowners and producers who are managing fields with visible clubroot symptoms will be required to develop a clubroot management strategy for all infected fields.

Key elements of an effective clubroot management strategy should include the use of clubroot-resistant canola varieties in a minimum of a three-year rotation.

All clubroot-infected fields will be monitored by an appointed pest control officer beginning this year.

Lisa Horn, executive director of SaskCanola, said the expanded 2018 survey was intended to give farmers a better understanding of where the disease has become established.

Survey results can be viewed on a provincial clubroot distribution map that was released to the public earlier this week.

The map can be viewed online here.

“We continue to encourage growers to remain vigilant about minimizing soil movement and use this new map as a tool in their ongoing management and prevention of the disease,” Horn said.

Marit said discussions are now underway to determine if the 2019 provincial clubroot survey should be expanded to new areas or intensified in areas where the disease has already been detected.

“We’re just getting into that process now,” he said.

“We’re having that discussion internally … and also with SARM and SaskCanola, on just where we go from here.”

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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