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New Findings of Clubroot in Saskatchewan: What Does This Mean for You?

By: Barb Ziesman, AAg – Provincial Specialist, Plant Disease

Galls resulting from clubroot infection
Galls (swollen root tissue) resulting from
a clubroot infection. Galls can be large
or small depending on the severity of
the infestation.
Clubroot symptoms (galls on the roots of infected plants) were identified in commercial canola fields in Saskatchewan crop districts 9A and 9B this year. Specific locations are not being released due to confidentiality restrictions, but also because it is unlikely that the clubroot pathogen is isolated to the infected fields. Spores of the clubroot-causing pathogen, Plasmodiophora brassicae, can be present in a field at low levels without the development of symptoms. Therefore it is likely that the pathogen is present in other fields in crop districts 9A and 9B even if clubroot symptoms are not present in the fields. As a result, all Saskatchewan canola producers, particularly those in crop districts 9A and 9B, are encouraged to scout for clubroot in their canola fields and to begin implementing proactive clubroot management strategies on their farm.

Clubroot is best managed by preventing the introduction of the pathogen. Once the pathogen is introduced, early detection will enable the implementation of management practices that will keep spore levels low and reduce the risk of disease development and yield losses.

Clubroot Management

Above-ground symptoms associated  with a clubroot infection
Above-ground symptoms associated
with a clubroot infection. Examination
of plant roots is required to determine
if clubroot is the cause of the
above-ground symptoms.
If clubroot symptoms have been found in your field, the following management practices should be taken to reduce the spore levels in your field and prevent the movement of the pathogen into other fields or new areas within the field:
  • Plant susceptible crops, including clubroot-resistant varieties, no more than once every four years. Resistant varieties are not immune to clubroot. Tight rotation of resistant varieties will increase the selection pressure on the pathogen population and may result in the breakdown of resistance.  
  • Minimize traffic to and from fields and practice good sanitation to restrict the movement of soil from the contaminated field to other areas. Movement of contaminated soil on equipment is considered to be one of the primary ways that clubroot can be introduced to a field.
  • If the clubroot infestation is isolated to the field entrance or a patch within the field, consider seeding that area to a perennial grass and creating a new access point as far from the infected area as possible. When possible, create a separate exit as far as possible from the field entrance to reduce the movement of the pathogen inoculum out of an infected field.
  • Use direct seeding and other soil conservation practices to reduce erosion and soil movement. Clubroot spores have been shown to be able to move in soil through wind and water erosion.
Decomposing clubroot galls
Decomposing clubroot galls. Late in the season,
close to or after swathing, infected root tissue will
start to decompose, leaving a “rotten” appearance.
As the roots decompose, clubroot resting spores
are released into the soil. These spores can cause
clubroot infection the next time a susceptible crop
is grown.
Proactive management can be used to prevent the introduction of the pathogen and keep spore levels low. This may be the case if the clubroot pathogen has been confirmed to be present in the soil through a DNA-based test in low enough amounts to not cause visible symptoms, if you farm in an area where clubroot has been detected, or if you are concerned about clubroot. Best management practices include:
  • Grow clubroot-resistant canola varieties in regions where clubroot has been identified. It is recommended that all producers in northern Saskatchewan, particularly in crop districts 9A and 9B, grow clubroot-resistant canola varieties.
  • Plant susceptible crops, including clubroot-resistant varieties, no more than once every four years. Resistant varieties are not immune to clubroot. Tight rotation of resistant varieties will increase the selection pressure on the pathogen population and may result in the breakdown of resistance. 
  • Carefully scout canola crops, including both susceptible and resistant varieties. When scouting, pull up or carefully dig up plants and examine their roots for the presence of swollen root tissue (galls). Near the end of the season, the galls will start to decompose and the infected roots may appear rotten. Focus your scouting efforts on field entrances and low areas or patches in the fields that are demonstrating above-ground symptoms of wilting, yellowing, stunting and premature ripening. For more information on disease scouting, check out the article on late season disease scouting published in issue five of Crop Production News. 
  • DNA-based testing of soil can be used to detect the pathogen at levels lower than those that cause visible symptoms in the field. There are a number of private labs that offer this test for a fee. Prior to sampling, contact the lab to ensure that the soil collected is consistent with the sampling protocol to get an accurate assessment of infection levels. This is important since the location and depth of sample collection will influence the ability to detect the presence of the pathogen in the field.
    • Restrict the movement of potentially contaminated soil to non-contaminated areas. This can include:
    •  Restricting the entry of vehicles unless they have been properly sanitized. Sanitizing should include the removal of crop debris and soil, washing with a power washer using hot water or steam, and misting with a disinfectant such as one to two per cent bleach solution.
    • Practicing zero-till to reduce soil erosion. This will help prevent movement of contaminated soil via wind and soil erosion, but will also help to reduce the movement of the pathogen to new areas in a field if it is already present at low levels in an isolated patch within the field.
    • Creating a separate exit as far as possible from the entrance to reduce the movement of the pathogen inoculum out of an infected field.
    • Restricting unwanted vehicles from entering your field by posting “no trespassing” and “no hunting” signs.

Clubroot in Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, clubroot is a regulated pest. Under The Pest Control Act, rural municipalities (RMs) have the authority to undertake prevention and enforcement measures related to the spread and control of clubroot.

The provincial government does not have authority under The Pest Control Act. The goals and activities of the Ministry of Agriculture specialists are focused on monitoring the distribution and severity of clubroot in Saskatchewan while working with producers in a confidential manner to proactively prevent clubroot infestations or manage the disease and prevent yield losses when the pathogen is present. 

When clubroot is identified in Saskatchewan through the Ministry’s annual canola diseases surveys, the information is kept confidential. Only the general information is released publicly to inform all growers in the region that clubroot has been identified. This is important so that producers in areas where clubroot is known to occur can take appropriate proactive management measures. Ministry specialists will also provide support to producers and agronomists to develop farm-specific clubroot management plans. The location of infected fields will only be disclosed to RM offices when the RM has a clubroot-specific bylaw enacted.

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