The spread of Mycoplasma bovis – infected farm found in North Canterbury

Biosecurity New Zealand (a unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries) today confirmed a farm has tested positive for Mycoplasma bovis in the north Canterbury region.

It’s the first time the disease has been found in this region.

The affected property is a mixed sheep and beef farm near Cheviot.

As with all other Infected Properties, this farm is under movement controls restricting the movement of any risk goods, including animals, on or off the property.

The farm was identified through the tracing of animals from known infected farms. It is connected to other infected properties through animal movements.

Mycoplasma bovis response Incident Controller Catherine Duthie says the discovery of new infected properties is not because the disease is spreading off infected farms.

“All the infected farms we know about are in quarantine lock down and no movements of risk goods, including animals, are allowed off them.

“Rather, the new finds are the result of our tracing uncovering historical movements of animals and then confirming the infection through testing. These movements, in many cases, took place before we even knew Mycoplasma bovis was in the country.”

There are several farms in the North and South Islands under quarantine while testing is under way and it is possible more infected farms will be found.

Source: Biosecurity New Zealand

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Officials to take new approach to managing myrtle rust after it is found in South Island

The Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation say the fight against the plant disease myrtle rust is changing gear, given the prevalence of the disease across susceptible parts of New Zealand.

Myrtle rust has now been confirmed in the Tasman region at the top of the South Island, which means the disease has been found across almost all regions identified as most vulnerable based on habitat suitability and wind patterns.

“When myrtle rust was first discovered on mainland New Zealand in May last year, we said it would be a challenging disease to contain and eradicate but we would give it a good crack,” says the ministry’s myrtle rust response spokesperson, Dr Catherine Duthie.

“There has been an enormous operational effort over the past 11 months, but the windborne nature of the disease means that containment has not proved possible. We have signalled for a while the likely need to change gear from intensive surveillance and the removal and destruction of host plants to one where we look to manage the disease over the long term.”

The fungus has been found in Tasman region on ramarama (Lophomyrtus) on a residential property in Collingwood in Golden Bay and a commercial property at Pohara.

Moreover, the ministry has confirmed infections on five properties at Omori on the south-western edge of Lake Taupō, which is also a new region for infection.

“We now have well over 540 infected sites across the North Island and now the top of the South,” says Dr Duthie. “Because of the windborne, pernicious nature of the disease, we have to anticipate that there are likely to be many more infected sites beyond these.”

Dr Duthie says the focus of efforts now had to be placed on a science programme designed to lift our understanding around the disease such as ways to treat myrtle rust, resistance and susceptibility, and to improve seed banking collection.

“A second key focus has to be on working with communities across New Zealand to support regional efforts to combat myrtle rust.

“As we transition to long-term management, MPI and the Department of Conservation (DOC) will be engaging with iwi and hapū, territorial authorities, the plant and nursery industries, and communities to support the development of regional programmes.

“This could include regional surveillance programmes, identification and protection strategies for taonga plants and special locations, advice to landowners, seed banking, and broad community engagement.”

As part of involving and informing communities at the grassroots, the ministry and DOC will hold meetings with iwi and councils in affected regions over the coming months.

“We think this regional and community effort is really important.

“One of the most critical things is for people to continue to report suspected infections. We need to keep tracking the spread of the disease so we can better understand how it might behave in New Zealand and what its long-term impacts might be.

“This will help us to understand resistance of native species and will be vital to our myrtle rust science programme.”

More than 540 properties are known to have been infected by the fungal disease since it was first detected on mainland New Zealand in mid-May 2017. Since then, more than 5,000 myrtle plants have been securely removed and destroyed, and more than 95,000 myrtle plants inspected.

Members of the public are encouraged to continue to report any possible cases to the biosecurity hotline – 0800 80 99 66.

DOC will continue to focus on seed collection to secure the long-term future of native myrtle plants and monitoring biodiversity impacts to inform science and management actions. It will also continue efforts to protect sites of high ecological and cultural significance.

Distribution of detections

At 6 April 2018, myrtle rust has been detected on 547 properties across nine regions: Northland (4 properties), Auckland (82), Waikato (61), Bay of Plenty (123), Taupō (5), Taranaki (233), Manawatu (3), Wellington (34), Tasman (2).

Response facts and figures

Since myrtle rust was first detected on mainland New Zealand, officials have:

  • inspected more than 95,276 myrtle plants across the high-risk areas of the North Island and upper South Island
  • co-ordinated field activities of 7 surveillance teams and 4 plant removal teams
  • dedicated more than 104,000 hours to respond to the myrtle rust threat
  • found myrtle rust on an average of 45 properties each month (ranging from 2 in October 2017, to 184 in March 2018)
  • removed and securely destroyed more than 5,000 infected myrtle plants
  • undertaken approximately 330 laboratory tests of myrtle plant samples
  • received more than 3,300 calls from members of the public regarding suspected myrtle rust infections
  • with the Māori Biosecurity Network, held hui around the North Island to share knowledge of myrtle rust and provided surveillance training to more than 100 people on marae so they could monitor taonga myrtle plants
  • worked in partnership with iwi kaitiaki, councils, and community volunteers to establish a community-driven surveillance programme on Mauao (Mt Maunganui) historic reserve.

Source” Ministry for Primary Industries

MPI lifts ban on the movement of myrtle rust plants in Taranaki

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has lifted restrictions on the movement of myrtle plants or green waste from Taranaki.  But this is not a measure of success by biosecurity officials in their battle against the rust.  It simply reflects the reality that the rust has spread far beyond the control area.

A Controlled Area Notice put in place eight months ago made it illegal to move myrtle plant material from a 20-kilometre area in Waitara in north Taranaki – the area most affected by myrtle rust at that time.

Despite the restrictions, myrtle rust has continued to be detected outside Taranaki, says myrtle rust incident controller Dr Catherine Duthie.

“Recent weather experienced across much of the country – warm, wet and windy – has been optimal for myrtle rust sporulation and 6 regions are now known to be infected.

“The reasons for having a controlled area focused on Waitara no longer remain.”

Last June, most myrtle rust infections had been detected in plant nurseries on young plants that would be sold and moved elsewhere. The Controlled Area Notice aimed to restrict movement of susceptible plants to help reduce the spread of the disease to unaffected areas.

Since July, most detections have been found on mature trees in residential properties. This increases the likelihood that myrtle rust spores have been spreading naturally on the wind.

“Unfortunately, restricting movement of myrtle plant matter from one area could not contain the spread of the disease,” says Dr Duthie.

The removal of the Controlled Area Notice does not change the status of individual properties that have been placed under control through a Restricted Place Notice. These notices remain in force.

Dr Duthie praised the local community for a high level of support to the myrtle rust response.

“We have received an outstanding level of support and co-operation from across the community, from iwi, garden centres, and commercial nurseries, and the Department of Conservation. People have pulled together and have committed to doing all they can to protect our trees from this challenging fungus. None of us is giving up.

“We are collecting a lot of information to build a good picture of myrtle rust’s impacts and spread. There is research underway to better understand how the fungus behaves in New Zealand conditions and to identify risk factors, resistant species, and potential treatment and management tools. Communities are working together to initiate ongoing surveillance and seed banking programmes. And we continue to investigate and remove infected plants where this would help to contain the disease and slow its spread.”

The public are being encouraged to keep checking their myrtle plants and to immediately contact the biosecurity hotline (0800 80 99 66) if they spot any signs of myrtle rust. The ministry will investigate suspected infections and track the progress and spread of confirmed infections.

Ministry for Primary Industries reports second myrtle rust find in Auckland

A second location of myrtle rust infection has been found in Auckland – this time in the city, on ramarama plants at a private property in St Lukes.

Myrtle rust is a fungus that attacks and can potentially seriously affect myrtle species plants including some significant natives such as pōhutukawa, ramarama, mānuka and rātā.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says so far it appears ramarama and pōhutukawa are the most susceptible species in New Zealand.

Myrtle rust response controller Dr Catherine Duthie says of the 136 locations now known to be infected, 90% involve infection in ramarama or pōhutukawa plants.

“As with all our previous detections, we’ve placed movement controls on the new property to stop any myrtle plant material being moved off site.
“Our team on the ground will shortly remove all affected plants to contain any risk of spread.”

Dr Duthie says it’s vital that the team knows just how well-established myrtle rust is in the Auckland region to help determine what is feasible in terms of future control.

“Auckland is a big place and we can’t check everywhere. We encourage all Aucklanders to look particularly at ramarama and pōhutukawa plants in their gardens and public areas and report any signs of the distinctive yellow fungus to MPI on 0800 80 99 66.

“It’s important you don’t touch the plant or the rust, as this may spread it. If possible get a good photo of the plant and the yellow patches, and contact us. We’ll look after it from there.

“If you believe you’ve found it, don’t touch the plant or the rust, as this may spread it.”

Dr Duthie says finding another infection in Auckland so soon after last week’s detection is disappointing but also expected.

“While myrtle rust has been relatively dormant over the winter months we have been expecting new infections to be identified as the weather warms up and the fungus begins to release spores again.

“We are now considering what this new find means to the future management of the fungus. It may well mean that we have to review our tactics and prepare for a longer term approach to managing it in partnership with others including local authorities, iwi, plant production industry and interested individuals.

“We’ll be keeping people informed about any decisions and will provide the most up to date information about best practice in fighting this disease,” Dr Duthie says.

Myrtle rust has previously been found in Taranaki, Te Puke, Waikato and Northland, and just last week, in Auckland for the first time.

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.