Clubroot, a disease that restricts a plant’s ability to obtain water and nutrients from the soil, has been detected in the rural municipalities (RMs) of Corman Park, Aberdeen, Rosthern and St. Louis.
The four area RMs were found to have at least one field that tested positive for the plant pathogen in a survey conducted for the provincial Ministry of Agriculture over the past year. A map identifying infected fields was unveiled by the province January 9.
Clubroot is a declared pest under Saskatchewan’s Pest Control Act, and is particularly deadly for canola.
Corman Park Reeve Judy Harwood said the RM council and administration is taking the issue very seriously.
“It’s a wake-up call,” said Harwood in a phone interview on January 9. “The reality is that this could be just the tip of the iceberg. It’s very important to stop the spread of this pathogen because it poses a very serious threat to farmers’ incomes.”
The RM of Corman Park is currently in the process of drafting a bylaw aimed at controlling the spread of clubroot.
Harwood, who also serves as District 5 Director on the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) Board, said the disease has been an issue in the southern part of the province for many years. She noted that SARM is encouraging producers to adopt a three-year rotation for canola as a way of mitigating its spread.
But, she added, the responsibility to prevent its spread lies with everyone, not just landowners.
“People need to understand that clubroot is transported from field to field on vehicle tires, farm equipment, ATVs, on your boots and even by horses’ hooves,” said Harwood. “It’s a question of biosecurity. Tires and equipment need to be cleaned before they’re moved from field to field.”
She said biosecurity concerns are another compelling argument for strengthening rural trespass laws.
“If it’s not your land, you should just stay off it,” said Harwood. “You could unknowingly be transporting the clubroot pathogen and accidentally contaminating someone’s field and endangering their livelihood.”
Harwood said the draft Corman Park bylaw will be modelled on existing bylaws in other RMs, and will aim to educate people about the importance of good agronomic practices, as well as monitoring and controlling the disease.
“It’s for everyone’s benefit to be on top of this,” she said. “It’s understandable that people may not want to let anyone know if they find evidence of clubroot in their fields, but ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. It will only make it worse.”
The 2018 clubroot survey showed the distribution of clubroot in the province, and will guide clubroot management and prevention efforts.
About 1,500 fields were tested, and visible symptoms of clubroot were confirmed in 43 commercial canola fields. The clubroot pathogen was confirmed in soil samples from an additional three fields that did not have visible clubroot symptoms.
Landowners of all fields with visible clubroot symptoms or the presence of the clubroot pathogen have been contacted. The locations of these fields have also been shared with the appropriate RM office.
The Ministry of Agriculture, in partnership with SaskCanola and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) is working to ensure a farmer-driven approach to clubroot management which includes the use of clubroot-resistant canola varieties in a minimum of a three-year rotation.