The weed should be reported and eradicated immediately because it has implications for human and animal health
A highly toxic weed was recently found in Alberta’s Peace region, causing plant health specialists to encourage producers to report and eradicate it if spotted.
One plant of jimsonweed, commonly known as devil’s trumpet, was located in a canola field in the Municipal District of Peace.
It is toxic to humans and animals if consumed, considering that all parts of the plant, including the seeds, are poisonous.
“It can have serious implications for human and animal health,” said Krista Zuzak, the chief provincial plant health officer with Alberta Agriculture. “We want early detection, and eradication is very important to stop this spread so it’s not something we see more commonly.”
This is the first time the weed has been spotted in the Peace, but the plant has a history in the province.
In 2015, lots of it were found in several counties in the Edmonton region, Zuzak said. The occasional weed showed up in 2016 and there were no reports in 2017 or 2018, she said, until this year.
“It’s uncommon, but we are still concerned about it and it’s important to monitor,” she said.
Zuzak said the weed is usually introduced with canola seed from contaminated seed lots because the seeds of both plants look similar.
It’s important to spot and eradicate it because it would be bad for jimsonweed seeds to contaminate canola seeds at harvest, she said. The seeds are extremely difficult to remove from canola seed.
The weed has dark purple stems, deep green leaves with toothed edges, white or purple trumpet-shaped flowers, and a large and round prickly seed pod. It can tower over canola plants, so it’s noticeable in a field.
There’s an ornamental plant, called angel trumpet, that looks similar. It is usually found in farmyards, Zuzak said, whereas jimsonweed is likely spotted in cultivated fields, particularly canola.
She said if there are more sightings this year, Alberta Agriculture will try to figure out the source of the contamination.
If there is an infestation, she speculated it could be from the same contaminated seed lots that were found a few years ago. Farmers might have planted seeds this year from those contaminated lots, she said.
“If we get more reports in 2019 and have some concern about another infestation showing up through another contaminated seed lot, we need more monitoring to track it down,” she said.
If jimsonweed is spotted, Zuzak recommended farmers wear gloves and long sleeves when pulling it. It should be double bagged before it goes into the landfill.
She recommended against incinerating jimsonweed because it release toxins in the air when burned. It shouldn’t be composted, she said, in order to avoid having seed spread and reproduce the following year.
Nasar Iqbal, manager of agricultural services with the Municipal District of Peace, was called by the farmer who had the jimsonweed plant in his canola.
Iqbal said it’s important for farmers to contact their municipalities and the province about the weed if found.
“Anybody with canola should be looking for this,” he said. “We haven’t received any more reports so far, but the best way to find it is by scouting.”