Research is Further Proving the Effectiveness of the Spornado

by | Jul 26, 2021 | Seed Testing

The Spornado and weather monitor that Farming Smarter is using for the Spornado project. Photo: 20/20 Seed Labs

A couple of months ago I wrote about the Spornado, a passive spore catcher first successfully deployed by potato growers in Ontario to detect late blight spores. 

20/20 Seed Labs conducts disease pathogen testing from the Spornado cassettes to detect sclerotinia (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) in canola and dry beans, fusarium head blight (Fusarium graminearum) in cereals, and late blight (Phytophthora infestans) in potatoes. The device, which resembles a futuristic weathervane, is placed in a field from late June to early August and a cassette inserted into it traps any airborne spores that blow through. The cassette is removed and shipped to our Nisku, Alta., lab for analysis.

Over the past few summers we have conducted important research in collaboration with Farming Smarter to better figure out how to implement this technology in the field in a way which makes sense for farmers. Along with Lewis Baarda of Farming Smarter, the Spornados were placed in two wheat fields, two dry bean fields and two canola fields. The spore traps were placed in areas that were judged to be high risk, low risk, and at field edge locations. 

Lewis Baarda
Lewis Baarda is the on-farm research authority at Farming Smarter.

Stripe rust (Puccinia striiformis) is a new pathogen test we have included in the research project this summer. The stripe rust pathogen can travel long distances by wind, and this makes it an ideal candidate for monitoring by Spornado testing. Follow 20/20 Seed Labs on social media and sign up for our newsletter to be notified of when stripe rust pathogen testing is available for Spornado customers.

The Spornado research project with Farming Smarter is currently in year two out of three, and what we have found so far is fascinating.

  • It didn’t really matter where we placed the spore catchers in the field — FHB and sclerotinia spores don’t travel far, so we tested different locations with a field to see if the spore load and disease risk would change. Preliminary results show relatively consistent readings at all locations, indicating that spore load may be consistent across a single field and that any location would be appropriate for spore trap placement. 
  • Dust in the cassette doesn’t affect testing results — Spornados placed near the field edge may collect dust from traffic on nearby roads. However, the molecular analysts at our lab can still extract the pathogen DNA from the cassette even if it has dirt in it. 
  • The Spornado is easy for farmers to use in their fields to make fungicide application decisions — The detection of pathogen spores is the last piece needed to complete the disease triangle. Knowing the host crop, environmental conditions, and pathogen presence allows farmers and agronomists to confidently know and make educated recommendations on whether a fungicide application should be used.

“There’s a real potential for this tool to help farmers make better decisions, especially with regard to fungicide timing and whether to apply fungicide at all,” Baarda says.

With this year’s hot, dry weather being seen across the Prairies, we’re finding this tool is hugely valuable. Hot temperatures with low precipitation mean less risk for disease, but what we discovered is that if a dry area all of a sudden gets some rain, things can go from low to high risk very quickly. Using the Spornado, if a farmer knows spores have been present in the field recently, they may make the decision to apply fungicide in the event that rain is on its way.

The more information a grower has, the better they can mitigate their disease risk. The Spornado can help provide that information in a timely way, and preliminary research is answering customer questions on the recommended use, placement, and timing of the Spornado.

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Rachael Melenka

Client Success Manager, 20/20 Seed Labs Inc. - Rachael grew up on her family farm near Warwick, Alta., and currently her parents are full-time grain farmers. She graduated from the University of Alberta with a bachelor of science in environmental sciences and can now apply her degree to help people make better agronomic decisions. Her favourite part about working in agriculture is the community and being able to constantly learn from research, other farming operations and innovation in the industry.