Changes to Alberta’s Agricultural Pest and Nuisance Control Regulations – Fusarium graminearum (Fg)
A total management system for Alberta
The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, along with stakeholders from across the value chain, support the provincial government’s shift away from a singular, regulatory control of Fg in favour of a province-wide approach that promotes a total management approach with an emphasis on extension and education of best management practices.
Eliminating this regulatory hurdle gives farmers improved access to competitive genetics and better reflects the reality that farmers in many regions face in trying to source Fg free seed. Moving away from a strict regulatory approach allow
s farmers to make operational decisions based on their individual circumstances and level of risk tolerance to manage a low-level presence of Fg. Through deregulation, farmers and industry can work together to build a long-term, integrated management plan in the province which encourages transparency, research, investment and innovation.
At its 2017 AGM, the Alberta Wheat Commission a resolution came forward regarding the removal of (Fg) from the Agricultural Pests Act/Regulations. As a result of this farmer-led resolution, AWC, in conjunction with Alberta Barley, launched a multi-faceted industry working group with the goal of advocating for modernization of the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act. Now, within the context of regulatory change, the Let’s Manage It! website goes hand-in-hand with the need for increased emphasis on best management practices. We hope you find value in this one-stop resource aimed at managing fusariuam head blight, as well as providing a roadmap of industry-wide tactics aimed at long-term mitigation. (www.manageFHB.ca)
Frequently Asked Questions: Changes to the Regulation of Fusarium graminearum (Fg) in Alberta.
Fg was declared a pest under the Alberta Pest and Nuisance Control Regulation in 1999 to help prevent the introduction and spread of this crop disease. As a declared pest, no person was able to sell, distribute or use any seed or crop material containing Fg as per the associated Agricultural Pests Act.
The announcement from the Government of Alberta removes Fg from the Alberta Pest and Nuisance Control Regulation meaning that it will no longer be subject to the restrictions under the Agricultural Pests Act.
- Farmers will now be free to make seed sourcing decisions, and lawfully use seed with low-levels of Fg. Farmers should still consider geographic and field-specific circumstances, risk-tolerance level, and willingness to bear costs associated with employing an integrated pest management strategy to control Fg based on industry accepted best management practices.
- Knowing the levels of fusarium on seed is an indispensable agronomic practice. Farmers need to test farm-saved seed, and ask for fusarium test results when purchasing pedigreed seed.
- The Alberta SEED SMART Program, established by the Alberta Seed Processors in 2016 to instill the practice of seed testing, is still highly relevant and vital to successful crop management, regardless of the regulatory environment. Area-specific reasonable seed tolerance levels may still be established as guidelines by seed processors.
- This change does NOT mean that using fusarium-infected seed makes sense for all producers.
- In years of when demand exceeds the supply of seed with zero to low levels of Fg, farmers in many regions across the province will have greater options for sourcing varieties to meet their yield and end-use needs allowing them to make competitive business decisions.
- Deregulation will mean a heightened emphasis and awareness on employing best management practices in the province, while allowing for an open and transparent exchange of information.
- Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions are developing resources, in collaboration with value chain partners, which will be made available at www.manageFHB.ca under our campaign ‘Let’s Manage It!’ We encourage farmers to take an active role in understanding best management practices.
- As FHB continues to become widespread in the province, a zero-tolerance regulatory approach did not account for the diseases’ continued establishment or the growth in our knowledge of the pathology of the disease (i.e. air-borne spores from corn and cereal fields), or the right of farmers to assess and take an appropriate level of risk based on their individual operational circumstances.
- The Canadian Grain Commission has reported that nearly all crop districts in Alberta have detected Fg in harvest samples.
- The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions have supported an alternate model for fusarium head blight (FHB) management that puts a focus on agronomic practices and awareness over a singular regulatory approach.
- Deregulation encourages transparency, openness, awareness and promotion of critical best management practices. These guidelines have been recently updated in the Alberta government fact sheet and are supported by agronomists and industry.
According to the Government of Alberta, municipalities are entitled to re-elevate Fg as a pest, should they choose, through the introduction of a municipal by-law under the Municipal Government Act.
This change will put Alberta in-line with other provinces that utilize best management practices as a means to manage FHB.
There are many areas in Alberta where, following an outbreak period, it can be difficult to source appropriate seed. Farmers in many areas of the province must use seed with low levels of FHB in order to remain competitive.
This change will allow farmers the freedom to lawfully make operational decisions, choosing from a wider range of varieties that may contain low-levels of fusarium, if their risk tolerance and willingness to invest in managing FHB makes business sense for their operations.
- The previous version of the Alberta Pests Act did not address fusarium levels in grain, it addressed only fusarium levels in seed. The recent regulatory amendment does not change this. Amended legislation does not address fusarium levels in grain destined for any use other than for seed purposes.
- Current limits set by regulation or contract on the presence of mycotoxins (i.e. DON/VOX) will be unaffected by the amendment.
- FHB management should continue to be a top priority for farmers to avoid potential downgrades or rejection of grain in the presence of mycotoxins or fusarium damaged kernels (FDK).
- It has always been recommended that end-use buyers to check the levels of the mycotoxin DON at an accredited grain testing lab. The Alberta Fusarium Management Plan refers to safe levels of DON for grain/feed. Here is a link to the document. Alberta Fusarium Management Plan.
- Also note that the Alberta Fusarium Management Plan states that “Lightweight, shriveled, fusarium-damaged kernels (FDK) may contain high concentrations of DON”. Hence, screenings and dust could have toxic levels of DON. If marketing a screening product, act accordingly.
- Most in the scientific community support best management practices, research and surveillance, not regulation, as the most effective means of slowing down and managing the spread of FHB.
- Through the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions’ check-off system, farmers contribute funding to research programs. Regulation has limited the growth of robust research programs conducted in the province that benefits producers.
- The regulatory change will improve access to new cultivars for ‘in-situ’ ‘in-market’ research on Fg resistant varieties in Alberta. Researchers are testing varieties in other jurisdictions which are intended for the conditions in Alberta, which can be very different.
The commissions recognize that moving away from regulation goes hand in hand with the need for increased emphasis on best management practices. A focus will be put on continuing to build resources to support producer awareness of field conditions while encouraging employment of integrated pest management.
The commissions supported of the development of Fusarium Risk Maps well before deregulation, recognizing that farmers and the industry needed more than regulation to mitigate the pathogen. We will continue to focus resources in these areas.
We are working with our industry partners to continue building on the Let’s Manage It! website as a resource based on encouraging transparency, openness, awareness and promotion of critical best management practices. These guidelines have been recently updated in the Alberta government fact sheet and are supported by agronomists and industry.
Our website also features a roadmap which defines activities that the value-chain must work collectively toward to establish a modernized framework for continuing to manage and mitigate the pest in the province, the roadmap focuses on four main pillars:
- Education and Extension
- Surveillance and Monitoring
- Research and Development
*(FHB is the disease that results from a complex of Fusarium species and strains. Fg is the most pervasive species and is the pathogen that is generally associated with the production of DON, a potent toxin. Kelly Turkington, AAFC Lacombe, is an excellent resource for the proper language associated with Fg, FHB, DON and other fusarium species and strains)