Archive for the ‘Biosecurity’ Category

Ministry calls for proposals for research on Myrtle Rust

The Ministry for Primary Industries has posted a Request for Proposals (HERE) for its 2017/18 Myrtle Rust Research Programme.

It advises interested parties that in March this year a response was initiated to a myrtle rust incursion on Raoul Island. This was extended to mainland New Zealand when the rust was discovered in Northland, Taranaki, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Myrtle rust is a fungal disease with the potential to affect multiple ecologically and culturally significant species, as well as species important to industry and the public, on both localised and landscape-scales, across the majority of New Zealand. No country has managed to eradicate myrtle rust from its shores.

Funding has been allocated from August 2017 – June 2018 (Phase 1), for urgent research work focussed on addressing critical knowledge gaps and delivering real-life management tools for myrtle rust.

The funding will be delivered via through a Request for Proposal process. Funded projects will need to ensure there is a focus on high impact research that aligns with, and builds on, research to date in New Zealand and internationally.

The ministry says this is a unique opportunity to be part of a protecting New Zealand’s iconic and culturally significant trees shrubs, and ecosystems.

National management of myrtle rust will be very complex, it says. The disease potentially affects multiple native, iconic, taonga and culturally significant species, as well as species important to industry and the public, on both localised, ecosystem and landscape-scales, across the majority of New Zealand.

There are many unknowns about its long-term impacts under New Zealand environmental conditions, and no effective tools for medium- or large-scale management of the disease.


Mycoplasma bovis update: one new dairy property tests positive

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ testing programme has identified one new property as positive for the bacterial cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

The newly identified property is a Van Leeuwen Dairy Group farm which was already under a Restricted Place notice under the Biosecurity Act.

Response Incident Controller Stephen Bell says the disease doesn’t always present symptoms and often doesn’t show up through just one test.

The ministry therefore has developed a testing protocol which tests herds up to three times at three to four week intervals.

Testing like this, over two to three months, “gives us the confidence we need that we have definite results for each farm,” Mr Bell says.

“This latest detection is evidence of that protocol working.

“It has meant there has been a long period of disruption and uncertainty for farms that are being tested but we have to be absolutely thorough in diagnosing positive and negative farms. It’s important for New Zealand that we take that time to get accurate results”, he says.

The testing programme for Mycoplasma bovis has resulted in over 26,000 of the planned 39,000 tests being completed by the ministry’s Animal Health Laboratory at Wallaceville.

These tests have been focused on the infected properties, stock movement traces from and to those properties, and the neighbouring properties. No adjacent properties have yet been identified as infected.

Officials have also been taking a multi-layer approach to testing to find how far Mycoplasma bovis might have spread.

District-wide surveillance in Waimate/Waitaki has been part of this. Bulk and discard milks were collected from approximately 260 farms in the area and tested. All these results are now back and no further infection outside the Van Leeuwen Group has been found on farms in this area.

There has been a nationwide testing programme, too. Samples of mastitic milk have been collected from regional labs across the country for testing.

Approximately 2,300 samples have been received but tests have not identified infected farms elsewhere in New Zealand.

Mr Bell says taken together, these results are encouraging, suggesting the ministry’s surveillance plan is working “and this disease is not spreading in the local area around the infected farms and is not widespread across the country”.

While the sampling and testing programme continues, the ministry is also preparing for what might happen next.

This involves preparing plans for the different possible scenarios. Eradication is one of the scenarios.

“We hope to have a clear picture by mid-October,” Mr Bell says.

“If samples continue to test negative for Mycoplasma bovis and if the evidence is pointing to the infection being contained to the current properties and not having spread wider, we would expect to have sufficient confidence to assess whether this disease can be eradicated.”

“We know this is an enormously stressful time for the impacted farmers and also for the wider farming community. We are carrying out all our work with urgency to limit the impact on the farming community as much as possible.

More information on Mycoplasma bovis can be found HERE. 


First new myrtle rust find of the spring is made in Waikato region

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has found a new area infected with the fungal plant disease myrtle rust.

The fungus has been found on two properties in the Otorohanga township – in both cases on a single ramarama tree. These finds are new positive detections of myrtle rust outside of the known established areas in Taranaki and Te Puke.

The ministry’s myrtle rust response incident controller, Dr Catherine Duthie, says the two properties have no  connection with nurseries or other infected properties in Taranaki.  It would appear these are infections that have occurred by wind dispersal from Australia, like the infections in other regions.

“We located these infected plants through our ongoing checks of areas that we’d identified as at-risk due to prevailing wind direction, the presence of host species and climate.

“Along with the Department of Conservation, we’ve been carrying out surveillance for the disease throughout the winter, even though myrtle rust is generally inactive in colder weather and the symptoms are less obvious.

“We had known that a reappearance of obvious myrtle rust symptoms was likely in spring – so while this is disappointing, it’s not unexpected,” Dr Duthie says.

The two properties are being placed under legal restrictions to stop any movement of plant material off the sites. MPI will  remove and destroy the two affected plants within the next few days.

Teams will then be in the area checking all myrtle plants in a 500 metre radius from the two finds. This could take up to a fortnight.

MPI is continuing  to encourage people to check myrtle species plants – for example, pohutukawa, ramarama, mānuka, feijoa, and bottlebrush.


Dairy industry body joins GIA biosecurity partnership

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) has become the 15th and largest industry sector to join the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) biosecurity partnership.

DCANZ is the national organisation representing the dairy processor and exporters sector, comprised of 11 members responsible for 99% of the milk processed in New Zealand.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the dairy industry is a crucial part of New Zealand’s economy, making up over a third of all New Zealand total exports.

“It is vital we work together to prepare and respond to biosecurity threats.

“The discovery of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis near Waimate is a real reminder of how important biosecurity is to the dairy sector. It’s good practice for all farmers to have an on-farm biosecurity plan.

“As the recent Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement outlines, biosecurity is a shared responsibility. We need everyone working together sharing their expertise and experience.”

The signing of the agreement was attended by Mr Guy, Trade Minister Todd McClay and representatives of all major dairy companies

Other signatories to the GIA include:

  • Vegetables NZ
  • TomatoesNZ
  • Kiwifruit Vine Health
  • New Zealand Pork
  • Pipfruit New Zealand
  • New Zealand Equine Health Association
  • Onions New Zealand
  • Forestry Owners Association
  • New Zealand Avocado Growers’ Association
  • New Zealand Citrus Growers Incorporated
  • Potatoes New Zealand
  • New Zealand Winegrowers
  • Ministry for Primary Industries

Veterinarians are helping farmers with response to Mycoplasma bovis

The New Zealand Veterinary Association is supporting veterinarians to help farmers respond to the detection of Mycoplasma bovis in a dairy herd in South Canterbury/North Otago. Led by the association’s Dairy Cattle Veterinarians and Sheep and Beef branches, it is working closely with members and the Ministry for Primary Industries to provide technical advice and support to veterinarians to be alert to the symptoms of this disease.

About 150 cows are affected on the property which has around 1000 milking cows.

The disease is commonly found in cattle, including in Australia, but this is  the first detection of it in New Zealand.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Director of Response, Geoff Gwyn, says Mycoplasma bovis does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk. There is no concern about consuming milk and milk products.

“This bacterial disease can, however, have serious effects on cattle including udder infection (mastitis), abortion, pneumonia and arthritis.

“Right now we’re working with the farmer to contain the disease to the affected farm and treat the animals showing symptoms. We are very appreciative of his support in this work.”

Mr Gwyn says the ministry has  put legal restrictions in place to stop any movement of stock from the property while the scale of infection is determined.

The ministry was advised of sick cattle at the property on Monday last week and Mycoplasma bovis was confirmed by its Animal Health Laboratory late on Saturday.

 “Fourteen cows have tested positive for Mycoplasma bovis and approximately 150 cows on the property have clinical signs that indicate they may be affected. MPI is now tracing movements of animals on and off the property to ascertain if other properties are at risk.

“Right now, we do not know when or how the disease entered New Zealand,” Mr Gwyn says.

Mycoplasma bovis only affects cattle and has no effect on other animals.

The ministry is tracing movements of animals on and off the property to ascertain if other properties are at risk.

Farmers are being advised to call their veterinarian if they suspect their dairy cattle are showing any of the clinical signs of the disease. These can include:

– Mastitis in dry and milking cows.

– Arthritis in cows.

– Late term abortions.

– Premature calves.

Full technical information for veterinarians on Mycoplasma bovis, prepared and distributed by the NZVA Dairy Cattle Veterinarians branch, can be found here.

The ministry has released the following information on Mycoplasma bovis – the diseases it causes, its surveillance, diagnosis and control.



New funding for a joint NZ-Australian project to combat myrtle rust

More details have emerged about Plant & Food Research and Scion winning funds in the latest round of MBIE’s Catalyst Strategic Fund for  a project addressing the threat of myrtle rust to New Zealand.

A media statement posted on the Scoop website (HERE) says the project has three key aims: to establish the susceptibility of key species to myrtle rust, build scientific knowledge for successfully storing germplasm of Myrtaceae species, and develop ‘in the field’ plant pathogen detection and surveillance systems.

“This is very important and timely research now that myrtle rust is present on the New Zealand mainland,” says Plant & Food Research Bioprotection Technologies Scientist and the project’s Principal Investigator Dr Grant Smith.

“This fungal pathogen threatens many species that have environmental, economic, social and cultural importance, including the indigenous pōhutukawa, rātā, kānuka, and mānuka, as well as exotic plant species such as Eucalyptus and feijoa.”

The Catalyst Fund supports international research partnerships and scientific cooperation. In this case, New Zealand scientists will be working closely with colleagues in leading biosecurity organisations across the Tasman, with the research collaboration between Plant Health Australia and New Zealand’s Better Border Biosecurity providing the overarching coordination.

“New Zealand and Australia have much to learn from each other with regards to the invasive species in their respective countries. Myrtle rust is something that Australia has been dealing with for seven years and our experience can really help New Zealand,” says Plant Health Australia Executive Director and CEO Greg Fraser.

The programme reinforces the development of a key trans-Tasman partnership between members of New Zealand’s Better Border Biosecurity network and Australian biosecurity organisations.

“Australia and New Zealand face many of the same issues and opportunities in bio-protection and biosecurity, so high-quality collaborations of this nature are very important. Smart partnerships like this achieve better outcomes than working alone,” says Better Border Biosecurity Director Dr David Teulon.

Scion Research Leader Dr Beccy Ganley says:

“Many biosecurity issues are too large for one organisation or sector to tackle alone. Myrtle rust is a prime example and we are very pleased to receive support from the Catalyst Fund to help reduce the threat this disease poses to our myrtles.”

The project will employ the expertise of Plant & Food Research, Scion, Plant Health Australia, Te Turi Whakamātaki (National Maori Biosecurity Network), the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Wellington Botanic Gardens. The project is also linked with scientists at Kew Gardens in the United Kingdom, who have significant expertise in the conservation of Myrtaceae species.

Tally of myrtle rust infections rises

The number of properties infected with myrtle rust nationally has risen to 20.

The affected properties are a mix of nurseries, private gardens, retailers/distributors and an orchard.

Sixteen of the properties are in Taranaki, three in Northland and one in Waikato.

The rust has been found on pōhutukawa, lophomyrtus, eucalyptus and a single instance each of mānuka and Syzgimum smithii. It has not yet been observed on feijoa.

The Ministry for Primary Industries says it is receiving unprecedented support from members of the public, with well over 450 reports of suspected symptoms to its 0800 number.

The ministry is working closely with the Department of Conservation in the effort to manage the situation.

People are encouraged to look for signs of myrtle rust, including in the South Island. Many common garden plants are members of the myrtle family and any new growth is susceptible.

The underside of new leaves in Lily-Pily (Eugenia), bottlebrush, mānuka, gum, guava and feijoia should be examined, especially if they are recently purchased plants from nurseries or ordered online.

Suspected signs of myrtle rust should be reported to MPI’s Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

The rust or the plant should not be touched because the fine wind-borne spores are easily spread on clothes or shoes. The location should be noted and photos of the symptoms and the plant taken.