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Peace Country farmers told the time to halt clubroot is now

Workshops are being held across the region to arm farmers with best practices for combating the devastating canola disease

Clubroot was found in the Peace last summer — and that’s prompted an all-out effort to mobilize the farm community to do everything possible to halt the spread of the disease.

Officials from the ag research group SARDA and local municipalities along with ag fieldmen are hosting workshops at seven different locations so producers can be informed.

“Because it’s been on the back burner, most people know about it a little and we need to get good information out to the public,” said Shelleen Gerbig, extension co-ordinator for SARDA.

Clubroot was first confirmed in Big Lakes County. That prompted neighbouring counties to step up their testing, which determined it was also in Greenview County.

The sessions will feature talks from plant pathologists Michael Harding and Krista Zuzak, Canola Council of Canada agronomist Greg Sekulic, and each county’s ag fieldmen. The ag fieldmen will talk about their county’s protocols, tests, and what they are doing if clubroot is found.

Peace County has had an ongoing problem with many farmers employing a snow/canola/snow rotation because the crop offers the best returns. But that also means they can’t afford a major outbreak of clubroot and why officials are now recommending a four-year rotation, said Gerbig.

Since SARDA is an applied research association, it is constantly testing alternative crops for the region. Gerbig recommends wheat, barley, oats, and peas as replacement crops. SARDA also is testing flax, lentils, fababeans, and industrial hemp, although those markets are somewhat limited. Forage seed crops do well in the Peace Country soil, although the region was hurt by the closure of an alfalfa-processing plant several years ago.

“We had a lot of land that was put into alfalfa for about four years, and that was put back into cropping rotations. We lost that option, so the number of forage acres went down,” said Gerbig.

Producers are being urged to grow clubroot-resistant varieties but are also being warned they shouldn’t just rely on that measure because clubroot resistance breaks down over time. They’re also being asked to take reasonable containment measures, such as knocking clumps of dirt and mud off equipment before moving to the next field.

“It’s pretty unrealistic to expect people to steam clean and wash equipment between every field, but if they have clubroot, they should take the time to do that,” she said.

Any equipment that is purchased should be steam cleaned before being brought to the farm, she added.

Most clubroot is found at the entrances to fields and so if producers see any spots that are not looking healthy, they should consider testing, said Gerbig.

“General good agronomy processes keep crops thick, healthy, and strong,” she said.

Weed control is also important to make sure that brassica family plants are not carrying the disease, even through non-canola years.

Gerbig expects that the sessions will attract a lot of interest. When clubroot was first confirmed in the Peace in the summer, 116 people showed up at an information session held in Guy.

“That was right at the end of August, when people were really busy during harvest, and they still came out,” she said.

Thirty more people attended a session in Big Lakes County in November.

The workshops are being held in Debolt and Valleyview on Jan. 23; in St. Isidore and High Prairie on Jan. 24; in Rycroft and Sexsmith on Jan. 25, and in La Crete on Jan. 26. Additional sessions are being planned.

For more information on the workshops or about clubroot, producers can contact their local ag fieldman or SARDA at 780-837-2900.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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