Agronomists Work to Solve Cause of Unsettling Canola “Mystery Syndrome”
Agronomists in Alberta are working to unravel the cause of a ‘mystery syndrome’ occurring in canola that manifests in the plant’s reproductive tissue reverting to vegetative tissue – meaning buds form, but then turn into a leaf or a stem instead of forming a pod.
Experts first became aware of this so-called ‘mystery syndrome’ in canola fields during the early-flowering to late-bud stage of growth in 2012, and cases have been reported from Camrose, east to the border of Saskatchewan, and from the Peace country to Calgary. Dry weather appears to make the syndrome worse, and in some cases, 80% of a field can be affected.
“You’ve got something that should be forming a pod, and it turns into a weirdly shaped leaf or a piece of stem or something,” said Greg Sekulic, Peace region agronomist with the Canola Council of Canada. “I could really walk into any field and find a few examples,” said Sekulic. “I’ve yet to be in a field this spring that doesn’t have it.”
Teams at the Canola Council of Canada have run a myriad of tests, from herbicide or tank contamination, temperature and chemical interactions, crop rotations and varieties, to the presence of diseases, but all pest and plant diseases were ruled out.
Plants that recover from the syndrome displayed strange, branching stems and leaves, but experts note that they did not see a loss of maturity or even yield.
The cause of the ‘mystery syndrome’ is still unknown, but experts agree that this developmental phenomena is probably due to an environmental factor that remains to be isolated.