Fusarium Head Blight

Res #: 15-01M
Number: 15
Year: 2001
Midterm: Yes
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No

Resolution 15-01M

WHEREAS, Fusarium Head Blight is becoming a widespread problem in Saskatchewan; and

WHEREAS, there are no controls on the sale, transport and distribution of grain infected with Fusarium Head Blight;

THEREFORE IT BE RESOLVED, that the Fusarium Head Blight be put onto the list of pests covered by The Pest Control Act.

Response from Clay Serby, Minister of Agriculture and Food Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF):

SAF recognizes the concerns that cereal producers have regarding the spread of Fusarium Head Blight (FHB), especially in regions where it has not yet become established. Placing FHB on The Pest Control Act would require Pest Control Officers within the concerned rural municipalities (RM) to prepare and implement bylaws, which could result in a number of problems impacting on their ability to police the movement of Fusarium-infected seed. For example, The Pest Control Act focuses on the eradication of pests from the area, which would be practically impossible for FHB, due to the fact that there are no feasible means to control Fusarium pathogens once established, and most Fusarium pathogens are already present in agricultural soils.

Furthermore, officials from SAF have informed me that the disease is caused by more than one species of fungus. Some of these species are already established in Saskatchewan soila, so Pest Control Officers would only be able to monitor the movement of cereal seed based on the confirmation of the Fusarium species of concern. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of scientific evidence surrounding FHB, and the importance of seed-borne Fusarium in establishing FHB in new areas hasn't been confirmed. SAF believes that limiting the movement of cereal seed around the province could have other negative impacts on the province's seed industry and seed growers, as in order to build up new seed varieties, it is essential that seeds are shipped to other parts of the province.

While Alberta has declared FHB a pest, they also recognize the difficulty in controlling the spread and are focusing their efforts on awareness campaigns. SAF also has been actively involved in FHB management within the province, including producer education, disease surveys, and funding research. The provincial plant disease specialist is also involved in a prairie-wide task force, which has the mandate to identify and implement research and breeding programs to lessen the impact of FHB. Any recommendations are based on prairie-wide discussions with other provincial pathologists and researchers. Penny Pearse and Doug Billet, specialists in the Crop Development Branch of SAF will be presenting information on FHB and othe Pest Control Act issues to the SARM Board on December 13, 2001.