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A – for Jan. 13, 2011

new plant disease in canola hasn’t made its way from Alberta to Manitoba yet but producers are still being warned to watch out for it.

Field surveys in 2010 found no signs of clubroot in Manitoba canola crops, producers at St. Jean Farm Days heard.

But farmers should still take steps to guard against the soil-borne disease which can wreak huge damage on canola crops, said Ingrid Kristjanson, a Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives farm production adviser.

She said clubroot is gaining a foothold in Alberta and could arrive here via people who have visited infected areas.

For that reason, producers returning from Alberta should wash and sanitize footwear, vehicles and equipment to rid them of any infectious clubroot spores, Kristjanson said.

They should also monitor their fields for any signs of the disease, she added.

Clubroot is a serious disease of crucifer crops (including vegetables and mustard as well as canola) in many parts of the world. It is a major concern for commercial vegetable growers in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario.

Clubroot was identified in Manitoba vegetable crops in the 1920s. It was found in one Manitoba canola field in 2005 but has not reoccurred since, said Kristjanson.

In 2003, the first significant case of clubroot in western Canadian canola fields was found near Edmonton. Since then, it has spread to central and southern Alberta, where it was confirmed in 566 fields in 2010, Kristjanson said.

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development warns clubroot poses a serious threat to canola production in the province. The risk would be even greater if the disease spreads outside Alberta, since canola is a major crop on the Prairies, second only to wheat. Yield losses in a canola field can range as high as 50 per cent.

Clubroot infects the roots of plants, restricting the takeup of water and soil nutrients. Symptoms include wilting, stunted growth, yellowing, premature ripening and shrivelled seed, as well as characteristic club-like galls on the roots. There is no treatment for the disease.

Once a field is infected with clubroot, rotation is the best management strategy. Alberta Agriculture recommends producers not seed canola on infected land for five to seven years.

But research indicates the pathogen can survive in the soil for up to 17 years, so rotation will not eliminate the problem, the department admits.

A clubroot action team consisting of MAFRI, Agriculture Canada and the Canola Council of Canada monitors fields in Manitoba for clubroot and collects data, Kristjanson said. [email protected]

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