What is a pest?
In the agricultural and horticultural world, the term pest includes weeds, pathogens, insects, and vertebrates that cause damage to production in one way or another.
Pests cause problems in Alberta every year – economical, environmental, and health and safety. They can reduce yield, make harvesting difficult, cause animals to lose or slow weight gains, make an area unsightly, or all of the above.
There are also regulated pests that we are preventing from entering and establishing within Alberta, eradicating where possible, and attempting to contain.
Pests can be placed on this list for many reasons. For example,
- The pathogen has the possibility of causing devastating plant or yield loss, with no cure for the disease after infection occurs.
- A weed that can take over sensitive areas or be poisonous.
- A pest that can cross species boundaries and infect people or other animals.
The Agricultural Pests Act and Pest and Nuisance Control Regulation are in place to manage, control, and eradicate various pests and nuisances in the province of Alberta.
If you visit the Government of Alberta’s website Crop diseases, you can see all of the regulated and nuisance pests. They also have information on Provincially Regulated Weeds.
Black Knot, caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa, is a very common disease of trees and shrubs. This disease reduces the aesthetic value of affected specimens, as infections spread rapidly high levels may result in the eventual death of the plant.
As the name implies, black knot looks like a big, black knot on the branches of trees. It begins as a small, dark green swelling, and it matures into the classic, hard, black gall which produces the spores for future infections.
Visit Black Knot | Alberta.ca to see if your plants are at risk of black knot infection and for greater detail on the disease.
This article from Salisbury Greenhouse is another resource for black knot disease.
Alberta Agriculture also offers videos that offer a great overviews of black knot and associated treatment.
Alberta Ag: Horticulture Tips: Black Knot
Fort St. John: Combat Black Knot
Dutch Elm Disease
Alberta has the largest DED-free stand of American elm in the world.
A province-wide 2017 American elm inventory identified at least 600,000 elms growing in Alberta municipalities, rural properties, shelterbelts and provincial parks, valued at over $2 Billion dollars, plus an estimated $50-60 million in annual sales, and their value as a shade tree and environmental protection.
Dutch elm disease (DED) is a costly, deadly disease that affects all species of elm trees in Alberta. It is caused by a fungus that clogs the elm tree’s water conducting system, causing the tree to die. The fungus is primarily spread from one elm tree to another by 3 beetle species. The beetles are attracted to weak and dying trees, which serve as breeding sites. Once the beetles have pupated and turned into adults, they fly to healthy elms to feed, transporting the fungus on their bodies from one tree to the next. The two key symptoms include: flagging (leaves turn yellow and brown, but stay on the tree https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dutchelmdisease.jpg), and stained sapwood (the wood under the bark is cream coloured when healthy, vs. streaked with dark brown or red when infected https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Almsjukan_(Dutch_elm_disease).jpg).
Find out about DED symptoms, life cycle, spread and control.
If you don’t feel like reading, this two part video series by Alberta Ag is full of great information.
The Last Stand – Dutch Elm Disease
The Last Stand part 2 – Managing Dutch Elm Disease
Clubroot is a soil-borne disease of canola caused by the pathogen Plasmodiophora brassica. This disease effects plants in the Brassica or mustard family, including canola, yellow mustard, cabbage, and stinkweed. The pathogen enters root hairs, infects neighboring root cells, causing the swelling or clubbing of the roots as spores are produced. Then when the plant dies or is harvested, the root rots and releases the spores back into the soil. They remain in their resting phase in the soil until the growth of plants in the spring activates them, and they infect new roots. If you are interested in a more detailed explanation of the clubroot lifecycle, you can watch a video by the Canola Council here. For detailed information about clubroot in Alberta, and the provincial recommendations and regulations around it, check out the Alberta clubroot management plan | Alberta.ca.
How do you prevent clubroot?
1. The most valuable control method a producer has is an extended crop rotation, where canola is grown with at least a three-year break between each crop, and using resistant genetics. For more information on clubroot management, genetics, and how resistance forms, you can watch this video.
2. Clean your equipment between fields. It can be difficult to get machinery entirely clean, however, removing visible dirt and debris will greatly reduce the risk of contamination.
Canola is a valuable Canadian and Albertan commodity. Find the most up to date information on canola, and anything you might want to know surrounding it by visiting Canola Council of Canada | Canola grows here or Alberta Canola Producers Commission | Alberta Canola – Agronomy – Marketing – Farm Management – Grain Prices .
Fusarium head blight (FHB)
Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a fungal disease of cereals, like wheat and barley. FHB affects kernel development, reducing yield and grade, and may contaminate grain with a fungal toxin (mycotoxin) produced in infected seeds.
The mycotoxin was the reason for FHB being regulated under Alberta’s Agricultural Pests Act.
In 2020, FHB was removed as a regulated pest from the Act, there was zero tolerance of its presence, and many farmers were greatly impacted. FHB Fact Sheet
Despite the move away from regulatory control of FHB, stakeholder groups and the government recognize the continued need to manage FHB. This website has a plethora of information, including more details about the regulatory change and fusarium testing.
As with many crop diseases, FHB prevention begins at the seed. The Alberta Seed Guide has an article with some tips and tricks. If you are concerned about FHB in your fields, you can get your seed tested at several places.
One option we recommend is 20/20 Seed Labs. Contact them for details on how to submit a sample.
Alberta Wheat Commission – Alberta Wheat and Barley Commission
Alberta Barley Commission – Alberta Wheat and Barley Commission
Don’t feel like reading a bunch? Although this video is a little dated – FHB is no longer regulated under Albert’s Agricultural Pests Act – the information is still valid, and it’s a fun video! Stop Fusarium Before it Stops You – YouTube
Did you know?
The window for dormant pruning of trees and shrubs is almost closed for the season in #SturgeonCounty