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Lessons From COVID-19 on Biosecurity on Grain Farms

COVID-19 has shined a light on similarities between human pandemics and crop diseases, as the topic of biosecurity on grain farms becomes a point of greater priority. As societies are learning to understand how diseases such as COVID-19 spread and how to adapt to new precautionary measures to slow its transmission, the methods used to mitigate the risks associated with crop pathogens are oddly parallel.

Transmitting soil-borne crop diseases, insects, or weeds from an infected field to a “clean” field is easily done, and Justine Cornelsen, an agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada, noted that grain farmers are beginning to outline their own biosecurity protocols.

Cornelsen stated that the short growing season can make the added work of cleaning equipment between fields a burden, but soil-borne plant diseases and pathogens can remain in the soil for extended periods of time waiting for a host crop, and certain pathogens like clubroot spores can survive through the digestive tract of animals and be spread through manure. Furthermore, similar to COVID-19, crop pathogens also mutate and develop resistance - indicating that our knowledge and education on the matter needs to continually evolve with it.

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