Top Crop Manager

Root rot diseases, soil N, and soil amendments

August 8, 2022  Sponsored by Battle River Research Group

Soil Acidification adversely affects soil health, nutrient availability, and the composition of the root exudates, which attracts soilborne pathogens and causes root-borne diseases such as root rot in different crops. Using soil amendments that can improve soil pH may enhance soil health and nutrient uptake. It may also help to control root-borne diseases, says Battle River Research Group’s research manager, Nasima Junejo.

Four Alberta applied research associations currently collaborate on a multi-site small plot research trial to assess. The project, which ran from 2021 through 2022, was funded by the RDAR and included two growing seasons of data. The test crops were field pea and wheat 2021 and 2021, respectively.

The study tested five different soil amendments (biochar, sugar beet sludge, wood ash, and Ag lime) in four soil zones of Alberta. The research was established on sites by Battle River Research Group (BRRG), Gateway Research Organization (GRO), Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA), and Mackenzie Applied Research Association (MARA). The specific objective of this proposal is to assess and compare the impacts of four commonly known soil amendments applications on root-borne disease, N availability, crop productivity, and economic feasibility. The selected soil sites were acidic in pH, low in organic matter, and available N. The first year Meadow peas were seeded on all sites. The fungicides application and seed treatments were avoided entirely to observe the impact of soil amendments on pea root rot.


“After a year, we started to gather interesting and valuable findings. “However, 2021 was a drought year with high temperatures across most of Western Canada. Dr. Junejo explained that all research sites recorded a significant increase in soil pH and available N amount in biochar amended plots, followed by beetroot sludge, ag lime, and wood ash. The drought of 2021 did not support the yield increment except for Fort Vermillion (MARA), and the highest yield of MARA was obtained from beetroot sludge amended plots.

Each product is impacted differently in each soil zone. For example, biochar performed most effectively in improving soil pH and yield at the black chernozem soil zone of BRRG. However, sugar beet sludge significantly improved MARA’s grey wooded soil zone. We need three more years to validate the data and reach a reliable conclusion. In 2022, we are testing the impact of soil amendments on wheat. We will also quantify the economic analysis and interaction of the seasonal factors with the amendment application, says Dr. Junejo.

“Battle River Research Group [hosted] a field peas root rot disease assessment workshop in 2021. In 2022 we will do a workshop about Fusarium assessment in wheat. Our goal is to provide producers with the reliable information they need to improve on-farm production. Getting data from multiple sites on a project like this is critical. To provide useful recommendations to producers, we wanted real data from multiple sites, each of which has varying soil and environmental conditions,” says Junejo.

Effects of soil amendment application on pea root rot existence at three research sites of Alberta application.

Treatment Fort Vermillion, Alta. Galahad, Alta. Westlock, Alta.
Pea root rot % detected in root analysis
Control 9.5 20 44
Ag lime 18 18 41
Biochar 0 0 0
Wood ash 17 20 41
Beetroot sludge lime 18.5 18 44
Pea root rot DNA was not detected in soil samples taken from all sites

Fig. 1: Effects of soil amendment application on yield data at four research sites of Alberta application (courtesy of Battle River Research Group).

Root rot in field peas, – disease assessment workshop at Galahad, Alta. (Battle River Research Group research site, 2021.)




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