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Bacterial Leaf Streak — An Increasing Problem in Alberta

With seed tests now available and awareness on the rise, bacterial leaf streak is a growing problem in Alberta.

Cereal crops in Alberta are hiding an emerging threat — bacterial leaf streak (BLS). While the bacterial disease has been around for decades, increasing awareness and seed tests are showing higher incidences of BLS in Alberta cereal fields.

“Up until about five years ago, it was really uncommon on the Canadian Prairies. We would see it from time to time, not at economic levels, but more of a curiosity. In the last five years, it’s become more common and more destructive,” Mike Harding, plant pathologist with Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation, says in a phone interview.

BLS is caused by a bacterium called Xanthomonas. There are different bacterial pathogens strains which can infect plants. Early stages of infection include necrosis on plants appearing as water-soaked lesions that look as if a leaf has been pressed on too hard between fingers with watery spots then appearing, Kim Kenward, research and development manager with 20/20 Seed Labs, explains during a Zoom interview. As the disease progresses, the lesions coalesce forming yellow and brown streaks.

“It’s a bacterial disease which affects the leaf tissue of the plant. So it destroys photosynthetic leaf area. And then it also moves up onto the head, resulting in head and grain infections. There could be an effect in terms of discolouration, which may affect grade and so on,” Kelly Turkington, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lacombe, says in a phone interview.

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