By Harry Brook
As we get into late summer, it means the ASB staff is getting into the field. Don’t be too startled if you see someone with a safety vest wandering around your wheat or canola field. One of the many responsibilities the agricultural fieldman and staff have, over the summer, is to assist the provincial agricultural department in several disease and insect surveys.
There is tremendous value in the agricultural service boards in the province all taking part in these surveys. They provide an accurate snapshot of the entire agricultural portion of the province in terms of certain insect and disease pests. With limited resources, the provincial agriculture department is unable to do these surveys without help. With ASB help, they have a very good idea of the scope of the various pests and diseases, as well as their spread and severity.
Many of the surveys are also predictive, giving an idea as to how bad the problem may be next year, and where the hot spots are likely to be located. With the bertha armyworm surveys, trapping flying adult moths give an indication as to how many worms might be in an area and how severe the damage may be. This year, bertha armyworm adults were generally low throughout the province and chances of major damage from this pest is low. Numbers of adults flying is a good indicator of potential damage from the larvae.
The grasshopper survey is another province-wide survey. It looks at numbers and species of grasshoppers in the ditches to predict the next year’s problem areas. Grasshoppers lay their eggs in undisturbed soil in late summer and fall, so roadside ditches and pastures are good sites for the survey. Once again, the ASBs across the counties conduct the survey, at least one site per township, to give a good idea of where a problem may develop.
We also do other surveys. In the disease area, Flagstaff County also helps the province with a wheat disease survey and a canola disease survey. As Fusarium graminearum is no longer on the Pest Act, we will be contacting landowners prior to entering fields. Ideally, we would like to contact all landowners prior to entry into all fields but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find phone numbers. With the wheat disease survey, we will be checking 16 wheat fields in Flagstaff County, looking primarily for Fusarium graminearum but also other wheat diseases. For canola diseases, we collect from 15 canola fields, looking for clubroot, blackleg, fusarium root rot, and sclerotinia. In addition to that, the county surveys about 200 canola fields, 4 fields per township as a more direct check for clubroot’s progress in the county.
In all cases, protocols for these surveys require strict adherence to high standards of sanitation. Disposable booties or bleaching of footwear is required between fields. Gloves are also sterilized with bleach. Timelines for these surveys are short so please be patient with us if you find us in your field. If we see anything of note, we will contact you and let you know. Thank you for your patience.