Manitoba canola pest lab backed for equipment, research

(Canola Council of Canada photo)

A new Manitoba lab with federal, provincial and canola industry backing has been opened with the goal of staying a step ahead of canola diseases such as clubroot and verticillium wilt.

The federal and Manitoba governments on Thursday announced $969,000 for equipment, including a polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) machine, and $250,000 for research at the Manitoba Canola Growers Association’s new Pest Surveillance Initiative (PSI) lab in Winnipeg.

The research funding, coming from the Growing Actions program under the Growing Forward 2 ag policy funding framework, is to be used to take samples from across the province to determine the presence of clubroot.

The money will also support a new web-based biosecurity questionnaire and risk assessment for producers, the governments said in a release.

The lab’s new qPCR machine can be used to identify low levels of clubroot in submitted soil samples. Other new equipment for the lab will include gene sequence and analysis equipment to track how clubroot strains may change over time, the governments said.

PCR testing was used to find Manitoba’s first fields with non-symptomatic levels of clubroot in 2011, and clubroot in a Manitoba field at levels capable of causing symptoms in canola plants starting in 2013. Since then, about two per cent of Manitoba’s fields have been sampled to check for the presence of clubroot.

The MCGA, which manages the PSI lab with support from the Manitoba government, has also put up another $130,000 for the lab and its research.

“Labs like the PSI are needed to keep up with emerging threats to Manitoba crops like clubroot and the recently announced detection of verticillium wilt,” MCGA president Ed Rempel said in the governments’ release.

Clubroot baseline

The clubroot grid sampling project, he said, will provide a baseline of clubroot levels in Manitoba by this fall. “Growers need this information to make management decisions and protect their incomes. Since there are many diseases that threaten canola and other crops, we expect the PSI lab will be busy for years to come.”

Other non-clubroot projects of interest to Manitoba farmers are expected to begin later in 2015, the governments said, noting a lab director, field staff and an internship program are already in place for PSI.

Clubroot, which didn’t arrive in Prairie canola until appearing near Edmonton in 2003, can cause premature crop ripening and economic losses due to reduced yield in host crops including canola. The disease restricts the flow of water and nutrients, causing wilting, stunting and yellowed plants.

Verticillium wilt was confirmed earlier this month to have made its first appearance in canola in North America last summer in a Manitoba canola field.

The fungal disease, well known to northern Europe’s canola and vegetable growers, has no seed treatments or foliar fungicides yet registered against it, and no resistant canola varieties available. — Network

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