Bio-pesticide works in lab to control clubroot spores

A Saskatchewan company may have an answer to clubroot — or at least part of the answer.

MustGrow Biologics, based in Saskatoon, released results of laboratory tests in late May. A third-party lab found that MustGrow’s bio-pesticide, TerraMG, provided 100 percent control of clubroot spores in 24 hours.

“We are extremely excited to now advance our clubroot work to the next testing stage to potentially provide a valuable crop-protection tool for farmers. I know how important canola is for farmers in Western Canada, and on my family farm as well,” Colin Bletsky, chief operating officer of MustGrow, said in a news release.

“I’m proud to think that we can potentially provide a Saskatchewan-based solution to help control this devastating disease.”

Clubroot is a soil borne disease, where galls form on canola roots and can cause premature death of the plant. It has been a problem in central Alberta for more than 15 years, but clubroot spores can be found in soils across the Prairies.

In its release, MustGrow said this is still at the “proof of concept” stage. Greenhouse and field trials must be done to show efficacy on a larger scale.

Using an Agriculture Canada definition, bio-pesticides are “pest management agents and chemicals derived from natural sources such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, plants, animals and minerals.”

MustGrow holds patents for a bio-pesticide made from natural chemicals found in mustard seeds.

Brassica crops like mustard produce sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates. The two compounds that MustGrow uses are sinigrin, a glucosinolate, and myrosinase, an enzyme.

“We extract these two components,” said Bletsky, who worked for about a decade with Novozymes,, a Danish biologics company, before joining MustGrow. “When you combine them together and you add water, they create a natural active called AITC (allyl isothiocyanate).”

MustGrow says AITC can be used to control crop pests, weeds and pathogens that cause diseases such as fusarium, botrytis, rhizoctonia and pythium.

The company has been around for about a decade, but it was initially known as MPT – Mustard Products and Technologies. MustGrow has registered a granular version of AITC, and it plans to register a liquid product in the near future.

The lab results on clubroot are interesting, but the lab is very different from the field. Dry soil, soaking wet soil, cold, wind and other factors can hinder the performance of many pesticides, including bio-pesticides.

Still, clubroot is a serious challenge for the canola industry, and all solutions are welcome, said Dan Orchard, Canola Council of Canada agronomist in Alberta.

“It’s encouraging to know there’s (another) invested party that’s looking at helping manage clubroot. So, that’s a good thing,” said Orchard, the council’s clubroot expert.

“I think they’re doing the right things. They’re cautiously optimistic, just from the lab results…. I’m pretty happy that they’re approaching some third-party people to do some analysis.”

Agronomists and scientists have been searching for a formula to control the disease ever since clubroot arrived in central Alberta in 2003. Initially, they told producers to clean and sanitize equipment as a way to stop the transport of contaminated soil from field to field.

Now, they want growers to use canola varieties that have resistance to clubroot and grow canola once every three years to reduce spore loads in the soil.

In the future, biologicals and bio-pesticides could become part of the solution.

“The more things we can throw at clubroot … the better (off) we’ll be,” Orchard said.

“I think it will end up being an integrated approach. With rotation, with some biologicals, maybe (soil) pH and using the right resistant varieties.”

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