SASKATOON -- A researcher at the University of Saskatchewan is getting to the root of the problem when it comes to an agricultural disease.

Edel Pérez-López and his team have been researching the make-up of clubroot.

“We need to know our enemy before fighting it. Basically, we want to know the enemy – the enemy is the pathogen that causes clubroot. Then, we want to be able to have the power to fight it with resistant varieties,” Pérez-López said.

Clubroot can live in soil for 20 years. The disease distorts and swells a plant’s roots, making the crop unable to hold nutrients – hurting a farmer’s bottom line.

Using customized software, Pérez-López has identified 32 new proteins in the clubroot genome.

“There’s only a few groups in the world working on this. One in Poland, one in Germany and us. It’s not too many people, so we have to work hard,” Pérez-López said.

The agricultural infection was first detected in Saskatchewan 12 years ago. Since then, there have been 43 reported cases in canola fields, according to the province.

“I’ve heard some guys say, ‘If I ever find clubroot, I’m just going to sell the farm,’” agronomist Tristan Huber said, laughing.

“Once you have it, there’s not much you can do. You basically have to be proactive.”

Years down the road, Pérez-López wants to create a clubroot-resistant variety of canola, so growers don’t need to be proactive.

“We won't care if we have clubroot because our plants will keep growing with or without clubroot in the field. That's kind of the last outcome we would like,” Pérez-López said.