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Biosecurity and Soil-Borne Pathogens

By John Ippolito, PAg., Regional Crops Specialist, Kindersley

January 2018

Biosecurity is a series of management practices designed to prevent, minimize or control the introduction and spread of plant pests. On grain farms, the most commonly used biosecurity practice has been to purchase clean seed or cleaning seed. This practice has been used for decades to prevent the introduction of undesirable plant species. In the past 10 years, producers have also had to pay attention to levels of some diseases on the planting seed as a means to prevent introduction of diseases such as fusarium graminearum.

With the recent discovery of clubroot in canola and aphanomyces in peas and lentils in Saskatchewan, producers are now being encouraged to take their biosecurity practices to the next level to prevent the spread of these two diseases. The pathogens that cause these diseases are soil borne. Any time soil containing the spores of these pathogens is moved, there is potential for spread of the disease to other fields.  

Wind and water erosion, as well as wildlife, are potential vectors as these processes move soil. However the largest potential vector for spread is through human activity, including field machinery, vehicles and other activities, such as walking when soils are wet. 

As part of a biosecurity program, producers or land owners may wish to implement the following practices:

  • Restrict access to outside vehicles in the field unless they have been cleaned prior to entry.
  • Control access to fields by other users.
  • Visitors to fields are required to wear either disinfected boots or disposable boot covers.
  • Clean equipment between fields. Removing all visible soil through brushing and scraping removes approximately 90 per cent of the risk.
  • Any field operations in fields known to be infected should be performed last, so that there is adequate time for proper cleaning.
  • Create separate entry and exit points to a field. Infection often first occurs at the entry point when the implements come from an infected field. By having a separate exit, you are not travelling through the area most likely to be infected as you leave.

For more information, refer to the National Voluntary Farm-Level Standard for the Grains and Oilseeds Industry on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website under plants/grains-and-field-crops. 

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