Seed, equipment quarantined at wilt-stricken Man. farm

Seed and equipment are now under federal quarantine at a Manitoba farm where a crop pathogen never before seen in Canada made its first-ever appearance in North American canola.

Without giving the farm’s specific or general location, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Friday it’s placed a quarantine order on seed from the farm at which samples were taken last fall to confirm Verticillium wilt in canola caused by Verticillium longisporum. [Related story]

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A prohibition of movement order is also in place on equipment used to harvest the seed, CFIA said, adding it’s working with the farm’s owner to discuss “treatment options” for said equipment, to make sure it’s cleaned of soil and plant debris.

The agency said Friday it’s still “too early” to know the source of the fungus, but CFIA is running traceouts to learn how V. longisporum arrived at that spot.

CFIA said it also plans related surveys to rule out any further spread and to learn if this was an “isolated detection” that may have been brought into the location on imported seed.

V. longisporum is mainly spread via movement of infested soil or diseased plant parts, CFIA said, noting “some scientific evidence” that seed from heavily-infected crops may bring it to new areas.

In this case, the agency said, the single V. longisporum finding is “limited to one location which is not being used for commercial production.” The Reuters agency and other media have described the site as a research farm.

“Given we are now in the post-harvest season and all crop material has been removed, and that CFIA biosecurity restrictions have been applied at the farm, there is no immediate risk of any further agricultural-related spread of V. longisporum,” CFIA said Friday.

V. longisporum is known to cause advanced ageing, early death and decreased yield in infected plants, mainly affecting canola plants but also other crucifers such as cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips and radish.

The type of Verticillium wilt already known to infect Manitoba sunflower and potato crops is caused by a different Verticillium species.

While not previously reported in Canada, V. longisporum is “prevalent” in Europe, Russia and Japan, and has been seen in crops other than canola in parts of the U.S. including California and Illinois, CFIA said.

“Disappointing”

Canada doesn’t yet consider V. longisporum a quarantine pest, the agency said, but once a pest risk assessment and surveillance work are done, it’ll decide whether to “take action” under the Plant Protection Act to eradicate the pest — or to slow and prevent it from spreading elsewhere.

The Canola Council of Canada said it’s now working with CFIA and Manitoba’s ag department to “understand the implications of this pathogen.”

For its part, the council said Friday it will post information on the wilt cycle and identification to its website — and make “management practices” available to growers in time for seeding this spring.

The “latest research” on Verticillium wilt will also be a topic at the International Rapeseed Congress coming up in Saskatoon in July, the council said.

“Although it’s disappointing that a new disease has been identified, it shows that the system is working and the industry is responding in a proactive and collaborative manner,” council president Patti Miller said in a separate release Friday. — AGCanada.com Network

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