Posts Tagged ‘Myrtle rust’

Ministry officials disappointed by discovery of myrtle rust in the Wellington region

The fungal plant disease myrtle rust has been found in Lower Hutt, north of Wellington.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says its laboratory has confirmed positive infection in three ramarama (Lophmyrtus bullata) plants in a Hutt Valley garden.

The two-metre-high plants are in a row and are heavily infected, says the myrtle rust response incident controller Catherine Duthie.

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

“This new find, significantly further south of other known infection in the upper North Island, is very disappointing,” Dr Duthie says.

As with other positive finds, the trees are having their foliage sealed to prevent spore drift and are then being removed and deep buried.

“All efforts to date have been to contain infection where it is found. However, we have been planning for the possibility that it turns out to be widespread and are realistic that it won’t be feasible to keep removing all infected trees found long term.

“This new find will see us review our tactics and could signal a move to a longer-term approach to managing it in partnership with others, including local authorities, iwi and hapū, plant production industry, and interested individuals and groups.

“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.

In the meantime, the ministry is encouraging people to keep an eye out for the disease in myrtle species.

“So far ramarama and pōhutukawa are the species we’re finding most affected and these are the ones to look at carefully.

Anyone  who believes they have seen the distinctive yellow fungus are advised not to touch the plant or the rust, because this may spread it. If possible, they should try to get a good photo of the plant and the yellow patches and contact the ministry on 0800 80 99 66.

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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.

Climate model gets the measure of myrtle rust’s behaviour under NZ conditions

Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Rob Beresford spent the month of June poring through research articles, crunching data and creating mathematical formula to better gauge what myrtle rust may mean for New Zealand.

The end result was the Myrtle Rust Risk Model, specifically designed to understand and predict how myrtle rust will behave under New Zealand conditions.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is using it to help inform its responses, such as targeted surveillance for the disease.

“The model has three key attributes,” says Dr Beresford.

“It warns when the weather is suitable for any spores in the air to infect susceptible plants; it predicts the time from when infection occurs to when rust symptoms may appear; and it assess the suitability of conditions for spores to be produced from infected plants that are showing symptoms.”

With no history of myrtle rust in New Zealand until its arrival in May, developing the model was not easy because of a large number of unknowns.

Dr Beresford’s first step was to dig deep into scientific literature and record observations from countries where the disease is already established, such as Brazil, the US (Hawaii) and Australia.

“Although the overseas research is tremendously useful, you can’t assume that myrtle rust will behave in New Zealand in ways observed in other countries with similar climates,” says Dr Beresford.

“New Zealand has its own seasonal weather patterns. Moreover, the genetic differences between plant species in the myrtle family could influence susceptibility, just as there can be differences in the strains of the rust pathogen itself. So, it’s very complex.

“All these things have to be calculated and factored in to the model, with mathematical parameters set to represent things such as plant susceptibility, temperature range and humidity.

“Essential to doing this well is having a good understanding of the biology of the disease and host plant species.”

The risk model is distinctive in simulating the biology of the disease at a fine scale of time and space. Additionally, thanks to NIWA’s sophisticated weather analysis and prediction maps in combination with its climate-data mapping skills, the NIWA data can be factored into the model hourly, allowing for day-to-day measurability and reporting.

This model can work in conjunction with other climate models developed for myrtle rust that take a more general, broad-brush climate matching approach or rely on long-term weather data.

“The next step to further refine the model is to do more in-depth research into host plant susceptibility,” says Dr Beresford. “This means we can tweak the model from reporting relative risk to something even more definitive.”

Funding for the development of the model came from the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Plant & Food Research is currently collaborating with NIWA on mapping the risk of myrtle rust infection in different regions.

Ministry urges continued monitoring by the public in Myrtle rust update

The Ministry for Primary Industries says it is continuing to encourage people to keep an eye out for the harmful plant disease myrtle rust and report any signs of the disease.

Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease that affects plants in the myrtle family. Plants in this family include the iconic pōhutukawa, mānuka and rātā as well as some common garden plants such as ramarama and lilly pilly. So far in New Zealand, the infection has been mostly found on pōhutukawa (Metrosideros) and ramarama (Lophomyrtus).

MPI, in partnership with the Department of Conservation and with the support of local mana whenua and councils, has been working to manage the disease since it was first found in Kerikeri in early May this year.

Since then, the disease has been found on 123 individual properties, mostly in private gardens. The majority of these affected locations are in Taranaki, principally around Waitara, and there is a second significant area of infection in Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty. There have been small detections in Northland and Waikato that were immediately removed and there has not, as yet, been any recurrence.

In Taranaki, as part of the work to try to contain the disease, MPI has put legal controls restricting the movement of myrtle plants and plant material (for example, cuttings, garden waste) out of the Taranaki region.

To date, the focus has been on trying to contain the disease and remove any infection found. Myrtle rust eradication has never been achieved anywhere in the world and rusts are notoriously difficult to treat. The next phase in tackling this issue may be to aim at protecting specific areas and trees while developing scientific solutions around treatments and building resistance.

By learning where myrtle rust is in New Zealand, the ministry expects to make better decisions about the most appropriate way to manage it in the future.

 

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.

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.

 

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.