Canola School: Clubroot sanitation takes time, but is well worth it in the long run

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Clubroot. Many producers have the viewpoint of  “We don’t have it in our area, so we don’t need to sanitize.”

This isn’t an alert that clubroot has spread — it’s an acknowledgment that it could come to your area, even if you are in a non-traditional clubroot zone, which is why growers have to be careful about the spread of the fungus.

Autumn Barnes, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada, tells Kara Oosterhuis in this episode of RealAgriculture’s Canola School, that producers need to stop looking at clubroot in the scope of if it’ll come to your area, but rather when.

Even though you may only just be starting to see the first true leaves on your canola crop, Barnes says this a great time to start scouting.

“The best thing we can do is find clubroot early. When clubroot infects a plant, it rapidly produces a whole bunch of more spores. So we want to keep our spore loads low by finding it very early,” she explains. “Finding it when our clubs are small is crucial.”

To learn more about preventative measures you can take with clubroot, as well as the importance of looking for clubroot resistance varieties for next year, watch our latest Canola School video, below:

When it comes to sanitation in the fields, Barnes acknowledges that keeping things clean takes the time that farmers don’t always have.

“Sanitation is a tough one because it’s a lot of work, and takes a lot of time. What I’m really hoping that people in my territory and non-traditional clubroot areas will do, is to do something,” she emphasizes. “You don’t necessarily need to spend six hours cleaning your drill between fields, but at the very least, knock off the dirt before you switch fields. Ask anyone coming on to your farm from other fields to be clean,” she explains. “Sometimes it feels like it might not be paying off initially, but it really can.”

She also notes that the clubroot spores don’t often become active until the soil temperatures have reached around 15 degrees Celsius — when they then become active and infect the root hairs of susceptible plants, most notably, any Brassica crops or weeds.

“If you have a long crop rotation, that’s a really good way to set yourself up for maintaining low spore loads. But a wide crop rotation of canola needs to include good weed control in off years,” Barnes explains.

The fungus-like protist Plasmodiophora brassicae that causes clubroot, is carried wherever your soil goes, which is why it is most often found around field entrances. However, as Barnes notes, this isn’t the only place to scout for it in your field.

“If the field entrance isn’t a suitable area for the clubroot to multiply, then it won’t. It’ll just get dragged through the field by seeding and other operations, but when it finds a place it likes, maybe an area that’s a little wetter, has a little lower of a pH, that’s when it’s really going to multiply and start creating more of a problem.”

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