Garlic Disease & Pest Management

High quality garlic bulbs that are free of destructive pests and disease should be the primary goal of every garlic seed farm. Premium growers  John Boy Farms implement a comprehensive program of prevention and monitoring in order to produce healthy seed stock.

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. 

Seed Quality

At John Boy Farms we take seed quality and pest management extremely seriously. It is our number one priority when making decisions and dictates how we operate throughout the season.

Proper management of pests and diseases takes a lot of planning and is very labor intensive which limits the amount of garlic seed we can produce each year. This means premium seed garlic prices are higher than cheaply grown commercial garlic. However, the high rate of planting success from good quality seed more than pays for the extra starting costs. 

How We Manage Pests and Diseases

Diseases and pests are continually present in the soil, air and on garlic bulbs at very low levels. This means there is always a chance of problems if preventative measures are not put in place or if the growing process is done poorly.

All the of the steps we take throughout the season are designed to produce high quality premium garlic seed that grows healthy vigorous plants every season. In order to do this we manage all the major garlic pests and diseases using the following controls and protocols. 

(1) Long Rotations With Diverse Cover Crops

We plant different cover crop species (e.g., radish, ryegrasses, clovers, etc) between our garlic crop 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

All of our own planting stock is grown on farm in our main location and any new seed arriving to the property is 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 our cloves go through a four part process which includes a disinfecting soak, rinsing soak, organic bio-protectant (Bacillus subtilis) soak and a seaweed extract soak (fertility boost). This helps minimizes disease pressure and ensures the cloves get off to a strong start.

(6) Crop Protection

Insects that feed on garlic can cause or spread disease. We monitor the garlic plants throughout the season for any insects that may arrive and potentially spread diseases or viruses. This includes leafhoppers carrying aster yellow phytoplasma or aphids that can spread allium viruses. If there are high enough numbers, we have organic control options that can be used to help lower the pest population and minimize the spread of d.

(6)  Equipment, Tools & 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 diseases such as botrytis and fusarium or pests such as mites.

(7) 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.

(8) 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.

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