The Fieldman’s Files – Clubroot Policy in M.D. of Smoky River

Normand Boulet, CCA
Agricultural Fieldman
M.D. of Smoky River No. 130

Last week in the Spotlight insert the three fieldmen from Lesser Slave River, Big Lakes County and M.D. of Smoky River presented an article explaining why Policies are developed and why they are so important to fill the gap in regards to the Agricultural Pests Act, which says a Municipality must take active measures regarding Pests, but leaves it to the Municipality on what those measures are.

This week I’d like to go into more detail on what the M.D. of Smoky River Clubroot Policy says. Our Policy was last updated at the December 12, 2017 council meeting, upon recommendation by the A.S.B.

One key statement in the new Policy comes at the very end: “M.D. of Smoky River Council wish to make it known that the Clubroot of Canola Policy is under constant review, as new information comes to light it will be amended in order to provide the best protection of our agricultural production.”

Although this statement applies to any M.D. of Smoky River Policies, it was particularly important to Council to include it in the Clubroot Policy due to the ever evolving nature of the issue. It needs to be noted that we have not yet found clubroot in the M.D. of Smoky River but it has been found in Big Lakes County as well as the M.D. of Greenview. The Policy sets out our inspection program and what the M.D. intends to do if clubroot is found within our borders.

We do not drive into fields with our vehicles, we wear disposable booties over our footwear and sterilize our tools between fields when completing inspections.

If we were to find samples we thought were positive we would send them to a lab for DNA analysis to confirm. Our Policy says M.D. staff are to inspect a minimum of 50 canola fields every year for both clubroot and virulent blackleg.

Our priorities of inspections are: to focus on short rotations (especially canola on canola), fields that appear to be showing symptoms, where earth moving equipment (including oilfield exploration and utilities) has been used, when purchased farm equipment from outside the Peace Region has been on the land and of producers known to farm outside the Region. We attempt to inspect fields from all around the M.D., rotating inspections to different fields and landowners annually.

In addition to the minimum 50 fields inspected annually, since 2013 we have been revisiting the same six fields on request of Alberta Innovates in support of research on virulent blackleg pathotypes.

When those fields are in canola we do a clubroot and blackleg inspection, when they are not in canola we gather canola residue for Alberta Innovates. The research is looking at how the blackleg pathotypes shift in response to canola varieties as well as rotation.

So, what would our steps be if we positively identified clubroot in a field within the M.D.? First off, I would be in contact with the landowner, and occupant if one is involved.

The canola crop can be harvested but we don’t want to see it being kept for seed and we don’t want to see any residue baled off that field. For the next three years our preference is that no crops off that land are kept for seed unless it’s a forage seed crop. All contractors or custom operators entering onto the land must be informed that clubroot was found and be advised to properly sanitize equipment.

We encourage direct seeding to limit potential erosion by wind or water and to reduce the equipment coming into contact with the soil. It is also extremely important that any volunteer canola or mustard family weeds be controlled so they are not building clubroot spore levels. Notice(s) would be issued under the Agricultural Pests Act as required to prevent any host crops (including Clubroot Resistant canola varieties) from being grown for the next three consecutive years.

In addition, the Notices will require crop residue and soil be cleaned off all equipment and implements coming off that field and any equipment parts that come into contact with soil be sterilized as recommended in the Alberta Clubroot Management Plan.

The previous M.D. Clubroot Policy was to enforce a 1 in 5 year rotation. We lowered that to 1 in 4, which is in keeping with the recommendations within the Alberta Clubroot Management Plan. A minimum 1 in 4 rotation is needed not only to prevent spore levels from building up on host plants, but to protect the current resistance bred into Clubroot Resistant canola varieties.

The major points of discussion when we reviewed the Clubroot Policy in December were the length of time we would require fields be kept out of canola and the release of information on where clubroot had been found. Under the Agricultural Pests Act is the Pest and Nuisance Control Regulation, Section 10 states:

“An inspector who finds on any premises evidence of an infestation in any crop may notify persons engaged in the growing, transporting or processing of any crop that may be affected by the infestation, or any organizations representing them, of the infestation, including the location of those premises and the name of their occupants, if the inspector considers such notification necessary or advisable with a view to preventing the spread of or controlling the infestation.”

In the best interest of all our agricultural producers, we feel it is necessary to release information on which land(s) are found to contain Clubroot. We would place a notice in the Smoky River Express advising that Clubroot was found in the M.D. After the landowner (and occupant if known) are informed, the specific field location will be noted on a map in the M.D. of Smoky River Administration building open to public viewing. The map will show legal land descriptions but not landowner names.

Clubroot remains in the soil for years and there is an excellent likelihood that when it is found, it has been present and building for years. We feel it is imperative that all area producers and contractors are able to see where it has been found. All persons who have been on that land, either doing custom work, helping to combine, hunting etc. should know they may have taken and spread infected soil to another location.

The intention of the Acts we work under, and the Polices we adopt to decide how best to meet the needs of our municipality are the same; to protect the agricultural productivity of the land, to promote, enhance and protect viable and sustainable agriculture. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions about our agricultural programs and policies. For more information, call (780) 837-0043, or email at


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