In February 2019, Lac Ste. Anne County was approved for grant funding under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) Program to conduct a Fusarium Head Blight of cereals (FHB) survey within Lac Ste. Anne County. FHB is a disease of cereal plants caused by the fungal pathogen, Fusarium graminearum (Fg). This can lead to significant yield and quality losses, as well as produce mycotoxins that negatively impact livestock growth, and may even cause death. As such, many areas of the agriculture industry currently hold a zero-tolerance policy for this pathogen. More information about FHB and the Alberta Management Plan is available in the Agriculture Section of the Government of Alberta website.
Fig. 1 A brief look at the lifecycle of FHB
Symptoms of FHB most commonly include: partially blighted or prematurely bleached heads, pink- or orange-ish colours beneath the glumes, and shrunken shrivelled kernels.
Fig 2. Common symptoms of FHB. Partially blighted heads (left) and shrunken kernels (right)
There are some ways to reduce the risk of FHB to your farm operation, which includes: crop rotation, clean seed and variety selection, seed treatments, and adjusting seeding rates/dates.
How’d you do the survey?
We selected a representatively random number of fields throughout the county. Approximately 1/3 of the fields surveyed were on the west side of the Pembina River, and 2/3 were east.
All biosecurity protocols were followed – vehicles never entered a field, new disposable booties and gloves were used at each field, and any tools used in a field were disinfected with a bleach solution. A more detailed biosecurity protocol can be provided to you if you have further questions.
As per 20/20 Seed Labs Inc. directions, we collected approximately 250g of seed heads from each field. A W-formation was used, where each arm of the W was approximately 100m long. 10-12 heads were collected at 10 points along the W, to reach the 250 g requirement. The survey was completed over two days, and all samples were sent in on the morning of the following third day.
In light of poor harvests and the Agricultural Disaster Declaration, it may seem strange that we are searching for more crop diseases. However, as noted in the lifecycle of FHB – as is the case for many crop diseases and pests – they thrive in excess moisture conditions. Lac Ste. Anne County Agricultural Services believes that for our producers to be successful, they need as much information at their disposal as we can help provide.
Crop production within Lac Ste. Anne County is not as prevalent as in other areas of the province, and therefore the County has not performed any such surveys in the past. With this grant approval, we aim to record the presence of Fg within our borders, and provide that information to producers and the province. Up to 10% of cereal fields will be sampled annually until 2022; in 2019 a total of 20 fields were sampled, and two (2) samples were confirmed to have low levels of FHB. This survey is for information purposes only, and we hope that the producers who were found positive can use this information to improve their operations.
We thank all producers who were involved with this survey. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, or if you would be interested in volunteering your cereal field(s) for the 2020 survey, please contact LSAC Agricultural Services at 780-785-3411, or at AgServices@LSAC.ca.