Committee being formed to deal with clubroot

Lacombe County plans to recruit local farmers to help review how the municipality should respond when clubroot is found in canola fields.

Lacombe County plans to recruit local farmers to help review how the municipality should respond when clubroot is found in canola fields.

Acting on a recommendation from its committee of the whole, council on Thursday approved a motion to form an ad hoc committee to review the clubroot policy. The committee would include all of council and, it is hoped, two producers from each of the county’s seven divisions.

The county has got off lightly so far with only three fields testing positive for mild infestations of the disease that has been spreading across the province. No fields tested positive this past season.

While it has not been a pressing problem yet, the county wants to ensure its clubroot policy reflects the latest scientific data on the disease, which causes the roots of canola plants to mutate and swell, eventually killing the plant.

Coun. Dana Kreil said she’s heard from local producers who want to know more about clubroot risks.

The county first developed a canola policy in 2008 and updated it in 2011.

Under the existing policy, once clubroot is discovered in a field, the farmer must not plant canola there for five years — four years if clubroot-resistant seed is used.

However, not all municipalities handle clubroot the same way and crop rotations can vary.

“The issue of seed is a huge issue. Resistant seed is hard to get,” said Coun. Rod McDermand.

There is also question about whether an entire quarter section needs to taken out of canola production when clubroot is found.

“Scientifically, you don’t have a real good reason to say it should be 160 acres,” said McDermand.

There is also some debate about what crop rotation is required.

Fencing has proven effective, but not all farmers deal with their infestations the same way. In Lacombe County, one producer fenced off his infested area, but another planted a different crop and continued farming.

The committee is expected to come back with an updated clubroot policy by the end of the year. Early next year, information meetings will be organized for area farmers.

In Central Alberta, clubroot has also been found in Red Deer, Ponoka, Stettler, Flagstaff and Camrose counties.

As of November 2011, clubroot was found in 20 of the province’s 69 counties. The disease was found in four more municipalities this year, including the County of Stettler.

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