With harvest operations getting underway, farmers are being reminded about the free disease testing being offered through SaskCanola and the Ministry of Agriculture. 

SaskCanola's Agronomy Extension Specialist Kaeley Kindrachuk says as well as testing for blackleg and clubroot this year they are also testing for verticillium stripe.

"Verticillium stripe was first reported in 2014 and we still don't really know a lot about the disease. Its symptoms look very similar to blackleg and sclerotinia, so it can very easily be confused. So we're offering the testing in conjunction with clubroot and blackleg."

She notes disease testing is key to helping producers understand what they're dealing with in their field and how to manage it.

Clubroot and blackleg disease testing have been offered for a couple of years now with producers encouraged to take part in the testing.

Personal information and location data are kept confidential, the participation is key in helping the individual, other producers, and the industry know what is happening with some key yield-robbing pathogens.

Kindrachuk says it's very simple to obtain a soil test sample bag by calling the SaskCanola office or their regional Ministry of Agriculture office.

"All producers need to do is give our office a call to get their free testing code and then they're going to want to go into their fields around swath timing. They're going to collect samples right at the base of the stem, at the crown. They're going to clip the stem and have a look in that cross-section of the root to see what they see. Sometimes blackleg and verticillium can be confused. Sometimes you see stem lesions, and we're just asking producers to send samples of that stem into the lab."

Stem testing is the only way to know whether your canola field has blackleg or verticillium stripe. 

The Canola Council suggests samples should be collected while plants are still green, around swathing time. 

The first 200 registered canola producers who apply are eligible for a free blackleg and verticillium stripe test, as only one sample is needed to test for both diseases. 

To begin the blackleg and verticillium stripe testing process, farmers are asked to email blacklegtesting@saskcanola.com

More information on the disease testing program is available from Saskatchewan's Ministry of Agriculture or SaskCanola.