RMs told they play key role in clubroot battle

The key to clubroot management is to keep pathogen levels low to allow continued production in infested fields

Rural municipalities with clubroot bylaws are advised to stay quiet if the pathogen is discovered.

“From an RM’s perspective, if clubroot is found in their RM, we do really encourage them to keep that information confidential,” said Barb Ziesman, provincial plant disease specialist for Saskatchewan Agriculture.

Ziesman spoke at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities’ recent annual convention in Saskatoon.

“The main reason is that we’re dealing with a soil-borne disease, so when it’s found in a field, it’s likely that it may be present in other fields in the area as well, so the value of sharing a specific location is relatively limited,” she said.

Identifying the risk in every field is impossible so a regional risk is going to have higher value than pinpointing a specific field.

“The biggest thing is we’re not looking in every field. So if we say clubroot is found in one field, yes we confirm it’s there but we cannot say that that’s the only field. So in terms of making sure that producers know what the risk is in that area, indicating that it’s present within a region is way more valuable, while also protecting the confidentiality of that producer,” she said.

She said the common goal is to minimize the distribution and severity of clubroot in Saskatchewan, which is everyone’s responsibility and includes the provincial government, RMs and farmers.

“I like to think of clubroot as a community disease where we all have a role and depending on how we work in the agricultural field will help us find that role. It really is going to be a partnership that’s going to help us achieve the common goal of minimizing the impact of clubroot.”

A clubroot distribution survey in 2018 provided a regional assessment of risk for clubroot. It mostly focused on northern agricultural regions of the province, which are considered higher risk. About 1,500 fields were surveyed where plant roots were examined for clubroot symptoms and soil was collected for DNA-based detection of the pathogen.

Visible symptoms of clubroot were confirmed in 43 commercial canola fields.

However, the pathogen was also detected at low levels in five canola fields that did not have visible clubroot symptoms.

When RM delegates study the survey map they should ask four questions:

  • Has clubroot been found in my RM?
  • Are there visible symptoms?
  • Has the pathogen been detected in my RM?
  • Has clubroot or the clubroot pathogen been identified in my region?

“I would say if your RM is located anywhere in that northern region, your answer to that third question will be ‘yes,’ ” she said.

“Our message to producers is if they farm within that region they should all be thinking proactively about clubroot and the reason for that is that the pathogen may be present in more areas than what we know of.”

She said minimizing the distribution of the pathogen must focus on preventing the movement of clubroot-infested soil, which producers must be educated on.

Open and transparent communication around biosecurity needs to be promoted, as well as encouraging all groups working on agricultural land to develop biosecurity protocols.

“A lot of the groups that are working on agricultural land already are in the process of building biosecurity protocols or have one in place. We do encourage this with some of the larger groups through the Saskatchewan clubroot initiative, but it’s also something that we do really encourage that continuous conversation so it does continue to occur,” she said.

She said the key to clubroot management is to keep pathogen levels low to allow continued canola production in the infested field with minimum impact on yield.

RMs are encouraged to minimize the spread of clubroot by passing science-based bylaws and policies and ensure producers manage clubroot in a consistent and science-based manner.

Clubroot bylaws and policies at the RM level should make clubroot reporting mandatory, ensure a consistent and science-based approach to clubroot management, and protect producers by indicating how clubroot findings will be managed by the RM.

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