Did you know?: Ag service boards have impact

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

There’s a battle going on in the world of agriculture. It’s against weeds, disease and erosion and it is never over, but thanks to the work of Agriculture Service Boards (ASB), it’s probably fair to say things are a lot better than they could be.

It costs money, of course. The province provides some to every rural municipality, which then kicks in some of its own cash to pay for an ag fieldperson and summer staff. In the M.D. of Lesser Slave River, that consists of a couple of weed inspectors. Among other duties, they do the rounds and where they find noxious or prohibited weeds on private land, will work with the property owner to deal with them. They will also be on the lookout for diseases that can hurt crops and damage the reputation of ag products. Fusarium, clubroot, blackleg – you name it. Not to mention grasshoppers and various worms and moths that like to eat things.

Alberta Ag & Forestry recently published a couple of fact sheets about the activities and impact of ASBs, province-wide. It’s pretty impressive.

For example: over 103,000 kilometres of municipal roadways controlled for weeds. And 43,000 farms (roughly 50 million acres) protected (to one degree or another) from weeds, pests and erosion.

According to the Alberta Ag & Forestry pamphlet, the provincial investment of $8.5 million annually is multiplied by six when you count all the municipal investments in ASB programs.

That’s the provincial scenario. In Lesser Slave River, the local version of some of the work mentioned above is being carried out. According to information provided by ASB chair Sandra Melzer, clubroot of canola surveys are just getting started. On the weed front, 386 inspections have been carried out (as of Sept. 16), with 381 of them for noxious weeds and five for prohibited noxious. Five notices were issued. Two were for orange hawkweed and three for Himalayan balsam.

Field scabius (so-called if you don’t like it and ‘blue button’ if you do) was treated with chemicals in two locations, the ASB report continues. Woolly burdock was also treated along the Lesser Slave River.

Spraying of Canada thistle along municipal roadways has been going on. Each part of the M.D. gets treated once every three years. That does nothing for the proliferation of this noxious weed along provincial highways, which is very noticeable.

“Holy crap!” was Melzer’s response when asked about the problem. The province has not done anything about Canada thistle in its road right of ways this year. Melzer says a government representative is expected to speak about this at an upcoming regional ASB conference, hosted by Lesser Slave River.

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