Top Crop Manager

Features Diseases Farming Community
From the Editor: A back-to-basics approach to disease management


Early morning scouting. Photo courtesy of John Hildebrand.

Like many of you, I often start my day by reading the news. I began doing this before I was in high school, sitting at the kitchen table and flipping through the local newspaper while eating breakfast.

These past few weeks, headlines from every news outlet are dedicated to COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus. There’s lots of conflicting information, scary stats and colourful language used in the discussion surrounding the disease, the risks, and the lasting effects on both people and the global economy. But when it comes to prevention and keeping yourself and your loved ones healthy and safe, the main messages being communicated are simple: avoid non-essential travel, stay isolated if you can, and wash your hands well and often.

This is the same advice we’ve all heard for years when suffering from a cold or flu that many of us – myself included – brush off lightly. We power through the day while feeling under the weather, all the while knowing a day of rest is beneficial. The risks associated with COVID-19 are serious, especially for those who are immunocompromised, and it’s nothing to joke about – but it’s a good reminder for all of us that disease prevention starts with a back-to-basics approach.

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So how does handwashing relate to this issue of Top Crop Manager? The idea for this column stemmed from the place where all good ideas start: Twitter, of course. Jokes aside, I came across a tweet that suggested the ag community has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to disease prevention, referencing handwashing, boot-washing and other biosecurity measures in place at livestock barns or near disease-susceptible fields. The author didn’t get into the specifics in terms of crop disease, but producers employ several measures to keep their fields free from disease and pests. Scouting, multiple modes of action, crop and variety rotation, tank mixes and spray timing, among other things, are all part of a disease management strategy – much like washing your hands and staying home help prevent the spread of viruses.

Coincidentally, this issue of Top Crop Manager is focused on diseases and, thanks to the experts, we dive a little deeper into issues. Read about efforts to manage the spread of clubroot – a devastating canola disease found across Western Canada – in Ontario, on page 6. And on page 10, you’ll read about new research towards developing varieties of winter wheat with increased resistance to Fusarium head blight.

Whatever threat you face this season – in the field or otherwise – we hope the stories found in this issue help you stay prepared and informed. And don’t forget to wash your hands.