Look out for Myrtle Rust

(Published on 29th May 2017)

New Zealand faces a major biosecurity threat to plants with the discovery of the fungal plant disease myrtle rust. Landcare and community groups need to be aware of the potential for spreading this serious disease - especially avoid touching or moving infected plants and to contact relevant authorities.

Myrtle rust has been confirmed at Kerikeri in Northland, at Waitara in Taranaki and Te Kuiti in the Waikato by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) in May 2017. Myrtle rust can have serious consequences for various species of plants in the myrtle family, including New Zealand native plants such as Pōhutukawa, Ramarama, Rata, Rōhutu, Mānuka, Swamp maire and Kānuka. Introduced plants including feijoa, eucalypts and bottle brushes are also susceptible to myrtle rust.

The Department Of Conservation (DOC) is working closely with MPI to restrict the spread of the disease. DOC staff are actively looking out for potentially infected plants in the wild. The impact on native forests will be noticeable if myrtle rust becomes established.

The disease could be on any plants from an infected area taken to a revegetation site. It can also be carried on clothing or vehicles. Myrtle rust spores are microscopic and can easily spread by wind, or via insects, birds, people, or machinery.

If myrtle rust becomes widespread it will impact all of New Zealand’s Myrtaceae species to some degree and we may lose some in their natural state. Ecological integrity will be compromised in places where myrtles are a dominant species. It is also likely to affect commercial activities (e.g. manuka honey industry), tourism, recreation and landscape values.

It is very important community planting groups, volunteers and all those who go into the forest follow certain hygiene protocols to restrict the spread of the wind-borne disease. Revegetation work is a potential vector for spreading myrtle rust. People doing voluntary conservation work of any type, could inadvertently spread the disease.

Commercial plant nurseries are required by MPI to comply with New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated (NZPPI) protocols of plant hygiene. Other plant nurseries are also requested to comply  with these protocols so the next link in the chain is where the plants go to from the nurseries. At this time, DOC is encouraging community groups involved in the propagation of plants to adopt the same protocols to lower the possibility of any further spread of myrtle rust. 

 

Groups planning planting events within the Northland, Taranaki and Waikato regions should adhere to the following:

  • Myrtaceae species should not be planted at any planting days coming up, unless the  disease is declared to be eradicated before the proposed planting date.
  • For all other plant species, it is advisable to ensure the nursery of origin has been adhering to the NZPPI hygiene protocols and you keep a record of number of plants by species, their origin and planting location, as these plants  can still be a vector.

For all other regions:

  • Planting of Myrtaceae species may proceed if plants are not sourced from Northland or Taranaki.
  • Ensure the nursery of origin has been adhering to the NZPPI hygiene protocols and keep a record of number of plants by species, their origin and planting location.

 

What to do if you suspect myrtle rust.

If you suspect myrtle rust is present it is essential not to touch or move the infected plant. Take a photo and report the incident to MPI (0800 80 99 66).

Don’t move any other plants, produce or gardening equipment offsite until you hear back from MPI. If possible, isolate the plants with an igloo-hoop-like plastic cover.

More details can be found on the MPI Biosecurity Alert - Myrtle Rust> 

Additional web based information:  

 

 

 

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