The Fieldman’s Files – Clubroot Update, an opinion piece, Part 1

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

2018 has proven to have both interesting and disconcerting news in the realm of clubroot, if you grow Canola in the M.D. of Smoky River, you should probably read this.

First off, in 2018 M.D. of Smoky River Inspectors checked 58 fields and looked for clubroot and blackleg. We found blackleg in every field we checked, and the good news is: we didn’t find any clubroot. The bad news: we didn’t find any clubroot.

If you have not spat your coffee all over the paper or burst a blood vessel you can keep reading. And please, before you pick up the phone to call and ream me out, finish the article, and the one which will appear in next week’s paper.

Yeah I know, farmers will have mixed feelings about that little statement, some of you are going “What the…, how can it be good and bad news?” And everyone else is just going, how can it be bad news??!!

Just keep in mind that this is my opinion, and perhaps I’m the only one who has this opinion. The reason I would even consider saying its bad news is that if we had found clubroot, we could get past the initial shock, realize that we are not immune because there is nothing so special about the way we are farming, or our soil or our climate which could make us immune. Once we got over the initial shock, we could start having the “what’s next” conversation instead of assuming it will never happen here.

I have told pretty much everyone who has asked me; clubroot is in the M.D., I don’t know why we have not found it, but rest assured if we looked hard enough, we would find it. In my opinion we would be better served accepting its here and acting accordingly than assuming its not.

Last year when the Canola Council of Canada positively identified clubroot in Big Lakes County, Big Lakes inspectors went out and checked every field of canola they could get to. They found 20 infested fields in the 319 canola fields they inspected. This year, they again inspected every canola field they could get to and identified another five fields with clubroot, in just under 300 fields.

So, 25 positive fields in a neighboring municipality found in 2 years. Greenview found five positive fields in 2017, I have not heard yet if they added to their total in 2018. Northern Sunrise County found 1 positive field in the 50 they surveyed (of approx. 700 canola fields in the County).

Their intention is to survey all canola fields in 2019. In Birch Hills County 130 fields were surveyed (of just over 300 or so), three samples were submitted for testing with one plant positive. One plant, out of 130 fields where staff is pulling 50 to 100 plants in each field. Talk about finding a needle in the haystack. So, the four municipalities which surround us have found clubroot, what do you think the likelihood is that it skipped us?

In the M.D. of Smoky River, we had around 1,600 fields in canola in 2018, and 1,700 in 2017. That is out of approximately 3,600 quarters being farmed, of which just under 300 have had no canola (pasture, hay, bush) in the 10 years we have been keeping track. So, 1,600 to 1,700 of 3300 fields in canola each year. We have been keeping track of canola fields since 2009, 2 years after clubroot was added to the Agricultural Pests Act.

If you look at how many times each field was in canola, you’d find that about 725 fields were in canola four times out of the 10 years, 1358 5X and 1012 6X for a total of 3095 fields in canola either 4, 5 or 6X in 10 years. That pretty much indicates to me that on more than 90 per cent of the fields in the M.D. where canola is grown, a 1 in 2 rotation is in place.

In case I have not alienated everyone about my statement that it’s bad we didn’t find clubroot, I’ll go one better; a 1 in 2 rotation is not sustainable in so far as clubroot is concerned. Again, my opinion. And BTW, Canola/Snow is not a rotation, and it is definitely worse than a 1 in 2.

I’m going to leave it at that for this week. This article is already quite lengthy and as either PT Barnum, Walt Disney (or both) said, “Always leave them wanting more.” I’m not sure how much more anyone wants to read of this, but until next week…

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