Garlic Disease & Pest Management

Garlic Bulbs

Growing high quality garlic bulbs that are free of destructive pests and disease should be the primary goal of every garlic seed producer. On our farm we take quality very seriously and have implemented a comprehensive program of monitoring and prevention that ensures we produce healthy seed bulbs every season.

Garlic Seed Certification

There are no garlic seed certification programs in Canada or the United States and the term garlic seed can be used loosely by growers who do not follow best practices. Just because garlic is grown organically or on a small scale, does not mean it is free of pests or disease. No matter how the garlic is being grown, specific best management practices (BMPs) need to be in place.

Purchasing poor quality seed can be disastrous to customers if they are receiving bulbs that have been infected with disease or infested with pests. Unfortunately, this means that it is up to farmers and gardeners themselves to investigate and find a suitable seed source that they trust.

It is very important for growers purchasing garlic seed bulbs to ask their suppliers how they specifically manage pests and disease.

How We Manage Pests and Diseases

There different pests and diseases that are present naturally at low levels in the soil, air and directly on the garlic bulbs themselves. There are also other pests and diseases that can arrive with wind, water, soil or insects. This means there is always a chance of problems arising if preventative measures are not put in place or if the growing process is done poorly.

All of the steps we take on our farm throughout the growing season are designed to prevent pest and disease problems from starting and to produce high-quality garlic seed that will grow healthy vigorous plants. In order to do this we use the following controls and protocols. 

(1) Long Rotations With Diverse Cover Crops

We plant different cover crop species including biofumigant radishes, grass mixes, various clovers, beans and buckwheat between our garlic crops to break any pest cycles and reduce disease presence before anything can build up in the soil. Garlic is generally planted only once every 4 years in each field.

(2) Closed Loop Production

Anytime a farm brings new seed onto it's property, there is always a risk of introducing pests or diseases. This is why all of the garlic seed bulbs we use for planting are grown here on our own farm. Any new seed the we acquire (eg, new varieties) are quarantined, grown separately in another location and monitored for up to two seasons.

(3) Farm Biosecurity

Our farm is fortunate to be located in an isolated river bend where there are no other farms beside us and no drive through traffic. There are no other garlic farms within 25 km, we minimize farm site visits and have zero non-essential traffic in all our fields (people or equipment).  

(4) Inspections & Culling 

All of our garlic cloves, plants and bulbs go through one of the most intensive inspection and culling programs in Canada. The process includes an inspection of each bulb before cracking and inspection of each clove before planting.

During the growing season, every garlic plant is individually inspected a minimum of five times (early & late spring , scaping, pre-harvest, harvest). Once harvested, each individual bulb is cleaned, graded, sorted and then inspected once again at shipping time. Any garlic that looks weak, diseased or of poor quality is carefully removed and discarded.

(5) Clove Disinfection & Protection

Before planting, all of the cloves we plant go through a four part process which includes a disinfecting soak, rinsing soak, organic bio-protectant soak and a seaweed extract soak (fertility boost). This helps minimizes disease pressure and ensures the cloves get off to a strong healthy start.

(6) Crop Protection

We apply Seaweed Extract to our garlic multiple times throughout the season as a bioprotectant and resiliency booster. Strong healthy plants are much more likely to fight off diseases naturally and to tolerate insect pressures. 

If the growing conditions are extremely wet and the likelihood of diseases showing up are very high, we have the option of applying an organic biological fungicide (Bacillus subtilis) to help protect the garlic and prevent disease from infecting the bulbs.  

(7) Controlled Drying & Storage

After harvest, all our garlic is brought indoors for cleaning, drying and storage. This helps prevent exposure to post harvest rains or sunscalding. Once inside, the garlic is placed in a large drying room with humidity monitors and massive air flow that cures the bulbs properly. This controlled curing process is important for preventing storage pests (e.g., bulb mites) or diseases (e.g., fusarium & bacterial rot) from developing.  

Once cured the bulbs are moved to a dry storage area that has large commercial fans maintaining permanent air flow. Humidity levels are monitored and the bulbs are checked daily for any storage issues developing.  

(8) Equipment, Tool & Crate Disinfection

Anything used for growing our garlic including cracking machines, planters, harvesting equipment, and storage equipment are all regularly cleaned and disinfected multiple times throughout the season. This is very important in preventing the spread of both bacterial and fungal diseases. 

(9) Bulb Testing

We conduct on farm testing of clove root growth, dormancy and germination. We submit lab samples for testing of diseases such as fusarium and pests such as nematodes.

We also plant seed garlic from the same variety groupings (lots) that we sell to our customers. This acts as a control test in order to monitor the planting quality of the seed garlic that was sold the previous year.

(10) Collaboration & Monitoring

We maintain regular contact with other commercial growers and agricultural experts to see how well garlic crops are growing across North America. This helps us to be informed about any emerging or ongoing pest pressures that could threaten our crop (e.g. leek moth, leaf miner, aster yellow, etc.).  

If you have any questions related to our disease and pest management program, feel free to contact us!