Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – Clubroot is a soil-borne disease that affects several crops, including canola, mustard, cabbage, and cauliflower. It swells the root tissue, reducing its ability to absorb water and soil nutrients.

The fight against clubroot is ongoing, and Corteva Agriscience has been at the front lines of that battle for years. In 2009, Pioneer Seeds, now a subsidiary of Corteva, deployed the industry’s first-ever clubroot-resistant hybrid. Today, a team of multidisciplinary scientists and researchers continue to advance canola seed tech so growers in Western Canada can help keep it at bay.

READ MORE: Mitigating the spread of clubroot

The original canola seed hybrid tech was widely distributed across the industry because of its proven, clubroot-resistant genetics. It did a good job of controlling the pathotypes found at that time across Alberta and the prairies. 

However, Thomas Ernst, Senior Research Associate at Corteva Agriscience, says the continued deployment of that same resentence resulted in new and more virulent pathotypes popping up. 

Ernst says Corteva has been adapting its tech to deal with it.

“The technology has moved to the point where we’re talking about clubroot-resistant rotation. We’re not just saying this first original resistance might not work anymore, and we have this one option. Instead, we have multiple different options, and what we can do is deploy them in almost a resistance-genetic rotation to keep the pathogen guessing.”

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Ernst suggests growers mix things up to try and prevent the selection of virulent pathogens from growing on their farm.

“You rotate to a different resistance, and the next time you grow canola, you do something completely different, and you kind of break up that selection pressure for that hyper-virulent clubroot pathotypes. That’s a strategy we’re trying to work towards.” 

Ernst is hopeful that within the next five years, the technology will evolve to a point where there’s not only clubroot detection but molecular pathotyping. A sample is sent to a lab to determine what kind of pathogen you have so that a grower can choose the exact type of hybrid that offers the best protection against that pathogen.

In the meantime, some suggestions to help stop the spread of it include good crop rotation practices, washing and sterilizing all equipment as often as possible and limiting tillage practices from field to field. Clubroot is patchy, and smarter tillage practices can prevent it from spreading.

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