Power line crews blamed for spread of clubroot

A group of Central Alberta landowners fear power line construction crews are spreading clubroot in their fields.

A group of Central Alberta landowners fear power line construction crews are spreading clubroot in their fields.

About 20 owners of farmland from Benalto to the Dickson Dam area met last fall to discuss their concerns.

Innisfail-area property owner Kurt Kure said about half a dozen farmers have found clubroot and they believe it is linked to the large amount of construction traffic created by the project to build a 500-kilvolt power line through from Edmonton to Calgary.

Some also fear that helicopters used in the massive project may be blowing clubroot spores from one field to another.

Kure said a second meeting is being organized in coming weeks and the plan is to take their concerns to the province’s Alberta Surface Rights Board.

The power line project is creating a large amount of traffic onto area farm fields. Kure, whose family owns two quarter sections in the Dickson Dam area, said there were about 100 different vehicles coming and going from their property last fall.

While contractors are supposed to clean equipment before travelling from one field to another, Kure doubts it is effective.

“In the end, it’s not enough.”

Contractors test for clubroot infestations. But testing rarely proves effective in catching the problem, he believes.

AltaLink spokesman Peter Brodsky said they have “very specific protocols” for their employees and contractors to guard against the spread of any noxious weeds.

“What we do is we expect all our employees and contractors to not only manually look around their vehicle for any possible infestation, but we keep washing stations at different areas along the worksite,” he said.

Those allow crews to clean vehicles and other equipment before moving to another property.

“All contractors and all employees are expected to abide by those protocols.”

Brodsky said he is not aware of any reports that noxious weeds, including clubroot, have been spread by power line crews.

“If that was brought to our attention, we would certainly investigate that.”

Testing is also done, usually during the reclamation portion of the project. If problems are identified, other measures such as spraying programs will be undertaken.

Clubroot is a growing problem in Alberta and is infecting more fields in Central Alberta every year.

First discovered in canola fields northwest of Edmonton in Sturgeon County in 2003, clubroot has spread quickly. It continues to march south at about 30 km a year with Red Deer, Stettler and Lacombe Counties already affected in Central Alberta.

The disease affects the roots, mostly of canola plants, reducing yields.

Last year, Red Deer County found eight fields with clubroot, bringing the total found so far to 16. Lacombe County found 28 infected fields last year, bringing its total to 58 fields since 2008.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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