Posts Tagged ‘Myrtle rust’

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.

Myrtle rust has now been confirmed in Waikato nursery

A positive detection of myrtle rust has been made in the Waikato region, the Ministry for Primary Industries announced this afternoon.

The fungal plant disease was identified in a small number of plants at a nursery in Te Kuiti. The new location was found as a result of MPI tracing sales of plants from another positive nursery.

MPI has personnel on the ground in Te Kuiti and restrictions have been imposed on the movement of risk goods from the property.

The property will be treated with fungicide.

As with all other finds to date, MPI will continue to search surrounding areas for signs of the fungus.

The new find, along with confirmations on a further three properties in Taranaki, brings the total number of confirmed infected properties to 16 nationally.

Most of the properties are in Taranaki, along with two confirmed in Northland and the latest one in Waikato.

The disease-causing fungus has been found at a mix of properties including nurseries, plant retailers and distributors, an orchard and private gardens.

MPI is receiving unprecedented support from members of the public, with some 420 reports of suspected symptoms to its 0800 number.

Of those reports, a small percentage require sampling and testing. The Ministry is able to distinguish the highest risk reports from photographs.

Myrtle rust only affects plants in the myrtle family. Any rust symptoms on other plants can immediately be discounted.

The ministry has thanked people for their vigilance. Their reports are helping to build a picture of where the rust is present and inform plans being made for the future management of the fungus.

The ministry continues its effort to try to contain the rust at infected properties, but is also realistic that this is a huge challenge and New Zealanders may have to learn to live with it.

People can report suspected signs of myrtle rust to MPI’s Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

The public are urged not to touch the rust or the plant. The location should be noted and photos taken of the symptoms and the plant.

Myrtle rust – MPI reports two more cases confirmed in Taranaki

Two further properties in Taranaki have been confirmed positive with myrtle rust infection today. Both are plant businesses, one a further nursery in Waitara and the other a garden centre in New Plymouth.

This brings the total number of known affected properties to five – a nursery and adjoining property in Kerikeri, two plant nurseries in Waitara and a garden centre in New Plymouth.

The ministry says the new finds are disappointing but not unexpected. It expects to continue to find new locations of infection given the most likely scenario is that the fungal spores entered New Zealand from Australia during a major wind event.

All infected properties are “restricted places”, meaning there are restrictions on the movement of plants or other risk materials off the sites. Locations are being treated with fungicide, risk plants are being safely destroyed, and surveillance is underway in the areas surrounding the properties for signs of the disease.

The ministry says there are two main reasons why the rust is being found in plant nurseries.

* First, growing conditions there are ideal for the fungus with many vulnerable young plants in sheltered, warm and damp environments.

* Second,there has been a large amount of communication with the nursery industry and growers have been particularly vigilant in checking their plants.

Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) is also known as guava rust and eucalyptus rust.

It is a serious fungal disease that affects plants in the myrtle family, which includes pōhutukawa and mānuka. The first detection of the disease in mainland New Zealand was at a Northland nursery early this month.

The fungus attacks various species of plants in the Myrtaceae family, also known as the myrtle family. It is found in many parts of the world including New Caledonia and all along Australia’s eastern seaboard.

It is widespread on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group, about 1,100km to the north-east of New Zealand.

Myrtle rust spores are microscopic and can easily spread across large distances by wind, or via insects, birds, people, or machinery.

The spores are thought to be capable of crossing the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand on wind currents.

Myrtle rust could affect iconic New Zealand plants including pōhutukawa, mānuka, rātā, kānuka, swamp maire and ramarama, as well as commercially-grown species such as eucalyptus, feijoa and guava.

Severe infestations can kill affected plants and have long-term impacts on the regeneration of young plants and seedlings.

Its impacts overseas have varied widely from country to country and plant species to species.

Myrtle rust shows up as yellow bumps and brown patches on leaves.

It generally attacks soft, new growth, including leaf surfaces, shoots, buds, flowers, and fruit.

Symptoms to look out for on myrtle plants are:

* bright yellow powdery eruptions appearing on the underside of the leaf (young infection)

* bright yellow powdery eruptions on both sides of the leaf (mature infection)
brown/grey rust pustules (older spores) on older lesions.

Some leaves may become buckled or twisted and die off.

Manuka honey exports under threat after myrtle rust is identified in Kerikeri nursery

Biosecurity teams are scouring Kerikeri nurseries after the detection of myrtle rust, a significant disease which threatens plant varieties important to the honey industry, such as manuka and kanuka, and $300 million of annual honey exports.

Feijoa, gum and bottlebrush trees are also threatened along with some treasured indigenous species such as pohutakawa and rata.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said authorities were notified on Tuesday evening of a nursery in Kerikeri where pohutakawa seedlings had suspected myrtle rust.

Laboratory testing has since confirmed the disease.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has initiated a Restricted Place notice to restrict the movement of any plants and people at the site, and is treating nursery stock with fungicide spray as a precaution, Guy said.

Work was also under way to trace any stock that had left the nursery and all other nurseries in Kerikeri were being inspected today.

According to the Northern Advocate (HERE), the disease is prevalent in eastern Australia and Tasmania, and was discovered on Raoul Island in late March this year.

Officials believe wind is the likely pathway of incursion into Raoul Island, and it is likely that wind has carried spores to mainland New Zealand from Australia.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry acknowledged the incursion could have serious consequences for some native species.

“Myrtle rust generally attacks soft new leaf growth, and severe infestations can kill affected plants,” Barry said.

“This could include native species like the pohutakawa and the rata.”

In Australia, the fungus has caused the extinction of several treasured plant species of significance to Aboriginal Australians.

“Myrtle rust has long been expected to arrive in New Zealand, and since the Australian outbreak began in 2010, the Government has worked on a range of measures to help manage and adapt to the fungus in the long term if necessary,” Barry said.

“This includes accelerating work already underway to collect and store germplasm from affected species, searching for signs of resistant myrtle strains which could be incorporated into a breeding programme and monitoring at 800 locations across the country.”

The Department of Conservation would also be conducting inspections of myrtle species on public conservation land in Northland for any early signs of the fungus.

There is no known method of controlling the disease in the wild, apart from applications of fungicide in very small areas as a last resort.

Even if eradication is achieved, there was an ongoing risk of reinfection from Australia.

Anyone believing they have seen myrtle rust on plants in New Zealand were asked to call MPI on 0800 80 99 66.