GrainsWest winter 2016 - page 9

Jimson weed, which is also referred to as devil’s trumpet, has large seed pods that are covered in sharp spikes.
to check for stem damage as well as leaf
Monitoring the crop to decide if addi-
tional management is required is essential
to managing insects. In the case of flea
beetles, this scouting is often required at a
time when growers are likely still seeding
other crops. “The key is that the crop look
a little better each and every time you
inspect it,” Gabert said. “If not, it’s time to
do some detective work.”
Reports of flea beetle damage and some
spraying to control the pest came from
across the province in 2015.
The crop year also saw grasshoppers
present north and east of Edmonton and
in the Peace Region, with intense pop-
ulations and higher numbers due to the
cooler dry weather in those areas. Their
effects were also intensified on less-
developed plants.
On the disease front, clubroot, blackleg
and sclerotinia were particularly noticea-
ble in canola. While cases of blackleg have
increased year over year, researchers said
new clubroot infections might have come
down due to the weather.
There were also cereal fields in south-
ern Alberta confirmed positive for aster
yellows in the mid-season, as well as
wheat streak mosaic virus. Because
insects spread mosaic virus and aster
yellows, they can be driven by heat rather
than rain, so the hot, dry summer of 2015
was a factor.
“In most cases we saw symptoms, but
not severe damage or an effect on yield,”
said Alberta Agriculture plant patholo-
gy research scientist Michael Harding.
“There were, however, a small number
of fields in southern Alberta where the
effects of mosaic virus were reaching the
threshold of economic importance.”
In heavily infected fields where grain
yield might be reduced, Harding
suggested producers cut, bale and sell
the crop as green feed. “That’s not a bad
option right now with the current value of
green feed,” he said.
Producers can help prevent pathogens
like mosaic virus from bridging the winter
in winter wheat through strategic field
selection and rotation.
While experts agreed that prevention
is the best method of controlling all pests
and disease, the reality is that sometimes
intervention is necessary. Scouting is one
of the most essential steps to determining
what’s needed, and then monitoring the
progress. “It’s a good idea for producers to
be aware of which diseases and pests are
present, and at what level, to know if their
practices are helping, or if a problem is
getting worse,” Harding said.
Looking back on the 2015 growing
season can give some indication of what
Alberta’s growers should be on the lookout
for this year in terms of pests and disease.
To start with, items on the regulated lists
of the Agricultural Pests Act of Alberta are
always of interest to researchers, and there
are ongoing surveys for clubroot, blackleg
and Fusarium graminearum. There is also
potential for management of stripe rust,
sclerotinia and root rots. Harding’s team
focuses on regulated pests, but they also
watch for other issues, often receiving
samples for diagnosis from producers.
Last season’s grasshopper numbers sug-
gest the insect could be a concern this sea-
son, if the right conditions are in place. “A
warm and fairly dry fall could mean lots
of egg laying and the possibility of further
development, setting us up for problems
in the upcoming spring,” said Alberta Ag-
riculture and Forestry insect management
specialist Scott Meers. “Especially if we
have a warm, dry spring. If we have a wet
spring, then at least the crop seems to get
ahead of them.”
Meers also said that although cabbage
seedpod weevil numbers had been lower
in the last couple of years, they were back
up to normal in 2015. With its continued
slow expansion north and east each year,
researchers and growers will be watching
out for it in the area south of Highway 1.
With uncharacteristic rainfall and
temperature from previous years, the
2015 growing season meant a change in
environment that influenced the impact
diseases and pests had on crops. Grow-
ers can only hope that this year Mother
Nature is more co-operative.
“For 2016, we’re really hoping for a
return to normal rainfall and a nice spring
to make sure our crop looks better early
in the season than it did last year,” Gabert
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