The Pest is History in BC Nurseries

In 2004, the BC nursery industry was severely impacted when a plant disease called Phytophthora ramorum (or Sudden Oak Death) was found in plants shipped into BC, causing losses and costs of more than $14 million.

Consequently, the national Clean Plants domestic phytosanitary certification program was developed by the nursery industry to help growers minimize the risk of importing or moving pests throughout the supply chain.

The Clean Plants program includes best management practices to improve pest control and enhance traceability. Plants are inspected and documented at various stages, reducing the risk of moving contaminated plants. Should an outbreak occur, the source can be quickly identified and actions taken to limit further spread.

While becoming certified can be a crucial step in ensuring the safety and sustainability of a nursery, completing the process can be somewhat daunting for growers.

With IAF funding, the association has been helping BC nurseries to transition to the Clean Plants program through a series of workshops and individual assistance in completing nursery manuals and preparing for company audits.

As a result, nearly 60 per cent of BC nurseries have completed the process.

Hedy Dyck, the BCLNA’s nursery industry analyst, believes that without the assistance, growers would have dropped the program.

“More markets will specify Clean Plants certified stock to minimize their own risk of regulatory action,” Dyck explains. “This is insurance for growers and an extra marketing advantage to show their customers they’ve done their part to prevent the spread of pests and disease.”

Tamara Mathies, pest manager for Cannor Nursery in Chilliwack, is one of the growers resting a little easier these days. Having previously experienced a P. Ramorum incident, she is well aware of the importance of proactive pest management practices.

“Traceability is crucial in a nursery,” Mathies emphasizes. “Knowing where your plants come from will significantly help mitigate a crisis later on.”

Funding: $156,341 provided through the federal Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program. (A0606)