Myrtle rust vigilance urged

KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN: The Ministry of Primary Industries has again urged members of the public to keep their eyes open for the fungal disease myrtle rust, which can ravage various species of native and introduced plants in the myrtle family including pohutukawa, rata, manuka and kanuka. File picture

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

Myrtle rust is a fungal disease that severely affects plants in the myrtle family. That family includes the iconic pohutukawa, manuka and rata, as well as common garden plants such as ramarama and lilly pilly.

So far in New Zealand, the infection has been mostly found on pohutukawa and ramarama.

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 has been a second significant area of infection in Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty.

An MPI spokesman said there had been small detections in Northland and Waikato that were immediately removed and there had 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,” the spokesman said.

“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,” he said.

“By learning where myrtle rust is in New Zealand, we can make better decisions about the most appropriate way to manage it in the future. This is where all New Zealanders can help.

“It is expected that as the weather warms through late spring and summer, any rust out there will produce spores with the yellow powdery spots on leaves and new plant shoots.

“This will make it easier to spot.

“If you believe you’ve seen the disease, do not touch it, take photos if possible, note the location and call MPI on 0800-80 9966.”

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

Myrtle rust is a fungal disease that severely affects plants in the myrtle family. That family includes the iconic pohutukawa, manuka and rata, as well as common garden plants such as ramarama and lilly pilly.

So far in New Zealand, the infection has been mostly found on pohutukawa and ramarama.

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 has been a second significant area of infection in Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty.

An MPI spokesman said there had been small detections in Northland and Waikato that were immediately removed and there had 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,” the spokesman said.

“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,” he said.

“By learning where myrtle rust is in New Zealand, we can make better decisions about the most appropriate way to manage it in the future. This is where all New Zealanders can help.

“It is expected that as the weather warms through late spring and summer, any rust out there will produce spores with the yellow powdery spots on leaves and new plant shoots.

“This will make it easier to spot.

“If you believe you’ve seen the disease, do not touch it, take photos if possible, note the location and call MPI on 0800-80 9966.”

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