In Alberta, Municipalities have responsibilities to protect the agricultural productivity under the Agricultural Pests Act of Alberta.  Like the Weed Control Act, the Agricultural Pests Act (APA) and its Regulations are empowering legislation.  The Act is Provincial, but the responsibility to enforce it is delegated to the local municipality.  Under the Act, landowners have a responsibility to prevent the establishment of or to control pests on their property.  The main pests of concern in this M.D. are: Clubroot, Wild Boar (when at large), Rats, grasshoppers and Virulent Blackleg.

Clubroot of Canola
In 2007 the Minister of Agriculture added Clubroot (Plasmodiophora Brassicae) as a Pest under the Regulations of the APA.  Clubroot is a potentially devastating disease which affects cruciferous plants (canola and cabbage families).  The disease infects the root system and causes it to form galls, preventing the plant from taking up nutrients and water, eventually prematurely killing the plant.  In the most heavily infected fields canola crops have been left without harvesting them, (what remained wasn’t worth harvesting).  Clubroot spores can stay dormant in soil for nearly 20 years.  When Canola or other brassicae plants begin to grow, the Clubroot resting spores sense their presence, germinate and actually ‘swim’ through the soil moisture to infect the plant roots.  The roots are infected and the disease multiplies within it forming zoospores, which are released back into the soil to re-infect the plant in different areas, as well as infecting neighboring plants.  This process can take as little as 3 weeks but the longer the host plant is allowed to live, the more new spores are produced which can infect future crops and mustard family weeds, building greater and greater spore levels in the soil.

Clubroot is not known to spread readily with seed or residue, but it does spread with soil.  The best way to prevent its introduction is to ensure any equipment brought onto your land, including your own, custom operators’, construction and oil & gas exploration equipment is cleaned of all soil.  If equipment is coming from a known infected area, it should also be disinfected after it has been thoroughly cleaned.

In 2020, for the first time ever, clubroot was found in the M.D. of Smoky River.  This map will give the people of our area an idea of where it was found.  The most important realization here is not, “on whose land was it found”; it’s that it was found.  Annually the M.D. inspects fewer than 100 fields for clubroot, every year the M.D. has 1500 to 1700 fields of canola.  The fact that we found clubroot in a field does not mean it has started there, it just means it was first found there.  Those infestations may have started in and spread from other fields, on equipment, in wind borne dust, with water movement.  Clubroot spores are smaller than dust particles, they move further and more easily than dust.

On the map, a person will see seven individual fields and notice two clusters of fields where clubroot was detected; this is the reality of clubroot.  When it is found more fields in the area are inspected, and it is found again.  The realization of this needs to be – there is more clubroot in the area than we are aware of, everyone needs to be on the lookout and if it is found, especially in a patch situation which all of these instances (so far) appear to be, management needs to be implemented to prevent the spread.  Bottom line, everyone needs to be scouting their fields, if in canola then by pulling up plants and inspecting the roots, if in another crop, by inspecting the roots of volunteer canola or mustard family weeds (stinkweed, flixweed, shepard’s purse etc).  The M.D. and 9 other Peace Region municipalities were involved in a clubroot soil sampling project in 2020, what we discovered is that inspecting roots is more likely to find clubroot than analyzing soil.  The report is being prepared and will be released once completed.

A word of caution regarding pulling up plants and inspecting roots for clubroot.  Waiting too long (i.e. after swathing or harvest) could result in the galls having broken down and no longer being noticeable.  In addition, at least initially on Clubroot resistant varieties there could be very little gall development, which could make an outbreak difficult to find and give a false sense of security.  Careful, thorough scouting is needed and lab analysis may be needed to confirm clubroot if gall formation is not substantial and obvious.

My top 5 clubroot management tips are:

  1. Scout your fields, management starts with knowing, if you find a patch deal with it
  2. Use Clubroot resistant varieties – every time you plant canola
  3. Extend your rotations; longer periods between canola crops allows some spores to break down and it helps to protect the Clubroot resistance. Clubroot resistance has been shown to be lost after only 2 cycles.  So if your rotation is Canola/Canola/Wheat and you have clubroot in your field, the next time you come into canola you could find the resistance is broken.  If your rotation is Canola/Wheat/Peas not only will spore levels be dropping between canola crops, it may now be 9 years before resistance is broken.  Longer rotations give plant breeders more time to develop new better resistance, and for some spores to expire.  A 1 in 3 rotation is good, 1 in 4 (or longer) is better.
  4. Control volunteer canola and mustard family weeds, they act as hosts and if allowed to grow can be infected and be increasing clubroot levels even when you are out of canola
  5. Keep clubroot out – even though this is number 5 on my list, it’s really No. 1. If clubroot is never introduced to your farm then it is a non-issue for you.  However, if soil is introduced onto your land, on equipment you purchased or demo’d, with a contractor, with oil field exploration, with hunters, with wildlife, blowing with the wind or moving with water the potential for infection is real.  So manage as if it is there (see 1 – 4).

 

More information on Clubroot can be found at:

Alberta Agriculture: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex8593
Canola Council of Canada: https://www.canolacouncil.org/canola-encyclopedia/diseases/clubroot/ The Alberta Clubroot Management Plan was developed by the Alberta Clubroot Management Committee to give producers and industry representatives information on how to prevent the spread of this disease: https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-clubroot-management-plan.aspx

The M.D. of Smoky River Policy on clubroot can be viewed on this website under the Council/Policies tab https://www.mdsmokyriver.com/council/policies/ or by contacting the Agricultural Fieldman at 780-837-2221 ext. 115 or e-mail: asb@mdsmokyriver.com

 

Wild boar, when at large
In the spring of 2008, wild boar when at large was added as a pest to the APA by the Minister of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.  A wild boar bounty program was introduced and operated for a number of years, but this program ended in 2020.  The issue with hunting wild boar is often only one or two are taken, which makes the rest of the sounder wary and often they became nocturnal to evade hunting.  Alberta Agriculture now has a call line for reporting Wild Boar when at large, if any are seen they may be hunted or Alberta Agriculture may come in with traps designed to capture the entire sounder.  If you see a wild boar at large call 310-FARM to report it.  Wild boar at large are considered pests and may be hunted on your own land, or with permission of the landowner on land you do not own.   Should you need further information don’t hesitate to contact the Agricultural Fieldman 780-837-2221 ext. 115 or e-mail: asb@mdsmokyriver.com

 

Fusarium Headblight (FHB) of Cereals
Fusarium head blight is a fungal disease of cereals (including wheat, barley and corn) which causes reduced yields and produces mycotoxins. There are different organisms that cause FHB and one of the most damaging is Fusarium graminearum as it causes toxic mycotoxins to form in the grain.  These mycotoxins cause reduced feed intake and efficiency in livestock even at extremely low levels, especially for swine.  If the mycotoxins are present in the grain used for beer production, the beer will gush and foam when opened, not a desirable trait. It is a serious threat to Alberta’s cereal industry.

Fusarium graminearum (Fg) was a declared pest under the APA until June 2020, when the Minister of Agriculture removed it from the Pest Act Regulation.

The Peace Region of Alberta is currently blessed to have very low levels of Fg, so producers and the industry should take every measure possible to keep it from being brought in and from spreading.  The M.D. of Smoky River as well as several other Peace Region municipalities have passed bylaws under the Municipal Government Act to allow the enforcement of control and management of Fg. The M.D.’s fusarium bylaw can be accessed here, as well as the Fusarium Policy which is meant to support the actions under the Bylaw.

 

My top 5 management recommendations regarding Fg are:

  1. Always test your cereal seed and retest cereal seed being purchased, especially if from outside the Peace Region, do not use the seed if a plate test for Fg comes back positive at any level
  2. Treat your cereal seeds with a fungicide registered to control Fusarium species, have it done professionally if your equipment is unable to do a thorough job
  3. Extend your rotation, longer periods out of cereals will allow Fusarium infected stubble to break down and not infect future cereal crops, a 1 in 3 rotation should be minimum
  4. Increase your seeding rate, a higher plant population reduces tillering and shortens the time the cereal plants are in flower which is the most likely time for wind borne spores to infect
  5. Grow varieties with the highest tolerance rating, there are no R rated varieties for Fg currently so an MR rated variety gives the highest tolerance level available

 

To learn more about the identification and biology of Fusarium graminearum, check out:http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex5210 orThe Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions “Let’s Manage it” website

Please contact us at 780-837-2221 ext. 115 or e-mail asb@mdsmokyriver.com if you have any questions or concerns.  As time permits this page will be updated with information on other Pests and Nuisances of concern in the M.D., check back often!