The Fieldman’s Files – Field Surveys

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

Over the next month, along with our regular weed and pest inspection duties you’ll be seeing M.D. of Smoky staff doing some things that might make you scratch your head and make you go, huh?

It’s the time of year when we start collecting data for several annual surveys that we participate in.

First off, if you see us out sweeping in the roadside ditch or adjacent field with a bug net it probably means you’re seeing the Alberta Grasshopper Survey data collection in action. Municipalities are the main participants who collect information for this survey.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) asks that we check at least one field and the adjacent road ditch in every township of the M.D.

The type, growth stage and number of grasshoppers is noted, as well as the type of crop in the fields we are checking. From this AAF produces the annual grasshopper forecast map which gives the province’s farmers some indication of potential grasshopper issues.

All of the surveys we are currently participating involve organisms that are designated as pests under the Agricultural Pest Act of Alberta (APA). Grasshoppers, Virulent blackleg, Clubroot and Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) caused by Fusarium graminearum (Fg).

The FHB survey is a random survey of wheat fields which takes place prior to harvest. We collect approx. 500 heads from at least 10 places in a field and these are thrashed, visually inspected and tested for Fg. Alberta Agriculture is using the information from this survey to build a database on the incidence and severity of Fg in the province.

We participate in it to help them out, but the M.D. also has a Policy that we inspect a minimum of 25 fields per year looking for Fg. So the FHB survey and the Clubroot/Blackleg inspections both do double duty, providing information and acting as part of our fulfillment of responsibilities under the APA, “to take active measures to …prevent the establishment of… to control or destroy… pests in the municipality.”

You need to know your enemy to be able to fight it, and these surveys help us in knowing where it is and how prevalent it is.

While doing the clubroot and virulent blackleg surveys (right after swathing) we will be collecting stubble samples to send to AAF who will be rating them for blackleg and analyzing for Verticillium wilt.

We will be looking at a minimum of 50 fields but collecting data on all three diseases at the same time. SARDA staff will also be participating in the Virulent blackleg/verticillium wilt survey, likely collecting samples in the municipalities surrounding the M.D. of Smoky River.

Verticillium wilt is not a designated pest in Alberta, but there is an industry desire to understand how prevalent it is.

When we are out collecting samples for these surveys we will be following the sanitation protocols set out by Alberta Agriculture, vehicles will never enter into the fields, and we will wear disposable booties or disinfect footwear between fields and disinfect any tools used.

When we receive results from AAF on the results of these surveys we will pass them on to our producers either on an individual basis, or in the case of the Grasshopper survey AAF will produce the annual Grasshopper forecast map, which can be viewed at AAF’s Ropin’ the Web site. It is very likely that we’ll be in contact with the individual producers to garner information on cropping varieties and perhaps seeding dates.

The information from these surveys is invaluable for AAF to best understand how widespread these pests are, and the conditions and situations which encourage them to develop.

Should you have any questions about the surveys do not hesitate to contact me at (780) 837-0043 or via email at

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