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Setting the Spore Trap

Our Spore Trapping project is getting ready for its third year!

As part of our Field Tested program, this project is studying the effectiveness of spore traps as a low-tech, cost-effective warning system. Additionally, we want to learn to better understand these pathogens and how we can mitigate them.

For this study, we wanted to prepare field sites that represented the worst-case scenarios for fighting pathogens. We have six irrigated field sites across southern Alberta growing wheat, spring wheat, drybeans, and canola.

To ensure we got as much data as accurately as possible, we placed spore traps in three locations per trial. These were a high-risk area (low, wet spot, dense canopy), low-risk area (high, dry spot, no history of pathogens), and on a field edge.

Our study investigated sclerotinia/white mold in canola and dry beans, fusarium head blight in wheat, and as of last year, stripe rust in wheat as well.

Laying the Trap

Because these pathogens are the biggest problems for their respective crop, we want to provide farmers with as many supportive tools as possible. We placed our spore traps in June and tested every week for six weeks.

The tests are accurate to pathogens being present. We found that test results don’t have much variation between high and low spots.

In the field’s edge, we do suggest accounting for the wind. While wind doesn’t carry these pathogens far (aside from stripe rust, which can travel well) it can stir up what’s in the field.

When a pathogen like sclerotinia releases spores, the wind can pick it up and spread it to crops around the host faster.

At all our sites, we found that if the pathogen was in the test, it was in the crops. This gave us a better understanding of how pathogens travel. In our next year of the study, we hope to find more data on when they are released.

There is only so much you can do to grow something resistant to pathogens. Most of the known diseases spread best when it’s warm and wet; due to the extreme weather this year, we saw fewer diseases than normal.

To learn more about our Spore Trapping project, check out some of these videos! Or read about the project here!