Producers and hunters in the Saskatchewan are being reminded to take precautions when out in the fields this year to avoid the spread of clubroot.
Clubroot is a soil born disease that primarily affects canola crops, but can also take a toll on other related crops such as mustard or camelina.
Barb Ziesman, Plant Disease Specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment explained the impact of the disease.
"So it's a root disease," Ziesman said. "it causes infection below ground and it causes the root to become swollen. So this reduces that plants ability to obtain water and nutrients and can result in yield loss."
She added in an infected area of soil, producers can expect up to a 50 per cent loss in yields in the affected crop, though yield losses can get as high as 100 per cent if pathogen levels are high enough in a particular area.
"The typical rule of thumb we say that it's about 50 per cent or up to a 50 per cent yield loss," she said. "but if the pathogen levels are very high, the plant is susceptible and the environment is favourable, we can see yield loss of up to 100 per cent."
Clubroot was detected in Saskatchewan late last summer in the crop districts 9A and 9B, however, the government said it's "highly unlikely" the disease is present only in those areas.
"2017 was the first year that we've had confirmation of clubroot in commercial canola fields," Ziesman said. "So we identified less than 10 fields in each of crop districts 9A and 9B -- north central and northwest Saskatchewan -- and this year we are conducting a more extensive canola disease survey looking for clubroot. So we don't have those results yet but definitely with the pressure coming from Manitoba and Alberta it is something that is a high risk here in Saskatchewan. So we do encourage producers to go out to their own fields and scout to look for the presence of the disease."
Clubroot spores can easily be spread from field to field by clinging to machinery or clothing so producers and hunters alike are being reminded to take precautions.
"So the pathogen overwinters as spores in the soil," Ziesman said. "the spores are very tiny so they can be moved anyway that soil can be moved and the activities that move the highest volume of soil are definitely the highest risk. So we're thinking on equipment, on vehicles, that's usually the highest risk of clubroot movement."
She recommended producers only drive through their fields when they have to and wash their vehicles off thoroughly afterwards and added soil conservation strategies such as reduced tillage can reduce any potential movement of infected soil through wind or water erosion as well. If producers or hunters have to walk through a field they can use disposable boot covers to avoid spreading clubroot.
If a producer does find a clubroot infestation in one of their fields, Ziesman recommended you notify your regional crop specialist as soon as possible, so they can help to develop a plan to deal with it.
"So it's a disease that you need to manage early," Ziesman said. "If you manage clubroot early you can still effectively grow canola in those fields, you just need to grow it differently. So we're looking at extending crop rotations to a minimum of a three-year rotation and using resistant varieties."
She added once a particular area of soil is infected with clubroot it can be very difficult to remedy, as the spores can survive up to 20 years without a host.
"So if you're growing a pulse or a cereal, "Ziesman said. "your not gonna see any effect due to the presence of the clubroot pathogen but you'll never eradicate the pathogen. So if it's present in a field it can survive up to 20 years but the good thing is that after a two-year break or two years away from a susceptible host, you can see a significant reduction in the spore levels, so that's the purpose of that rotation."
Lastly, Ziesman added producers will want to deal with weeds that are susceptible to clubroot, like wild mustard or stinkweed so they don't continue to increase soil pathogen levels in your fields.