Myrtle Rust Update

2 June 2017

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As of Thursday evening (1/6/2017) there are 32 confirmed myrtle rust finds in mainland New Zealand: Taranaki (27), Northland (3) and Waikato (2). The 14 most recent finds of myrtle rust since 27 May have been in Taranaki, 12 of which were on private properties in New Plymouth.

The affected sites include nursery (8), retailer (1), private (18), depot (1), orchard (1), golf course (1) public (1) and commercial (1).

The plant species that myrtle rust has been detected on include: Lophomyrtus (15), Metrosideros (15), Syzygium (2), Leptospermum (1) and Eucalyptus (1). They include Pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), Metrosideros sp.; Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sp.) Ramarama (Lophomyrtus bullata); Myrtle (Lophomyrtus sp.), Ramarama (Lophomyrtus bullata), Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium) and Monkey Apple (Syzygium smithii). Myrtle rust has not been confirmed on feijoa.

In Northland, destruction of Myrtaceae plants on the three infected properties and decontamination is complete. There have been no further finds. Our congratulations to Kerikeri Plant Production, which is now back open for business and able to sell non-Myrtaceae species (there will be a quarantine period before sale of Myrtaceae is approved, yet to be determined based on science advice).

In the Waikato, destruction of Myrtaceae plants and decontamination is still underway (completed for two of the three sites). MPI believes this is a highly contained situation, with direct tracing links to each of the properties and circumstances that meant minimal risk of spread.

In Taranaki, the number of affected properties is growing by the day, but these are still localised in the Waitara area or with a direct tracing link at this time. Our congratulations to Big Jim’s, which is now back open for business and made front page of the Taranaki Daily News! Destruction of Myrtaceae plants and decontamination continues at the seven nurseries affected in the Taranaki, and our support goes out to those involved – NZPPI’s meeting with Taranaki industry members is covered below.

The current focus of the response is on aggressive containment and eradication. This will continue to be evaluated as the situation changes.

Contingency planning is also underway to prepare for long term management of myrtle rust, if it cannot be eradicated. The need for a more formalised nursery biosecurity accreditation scheme is seen by MPI and others as fundamental to any such long term management. MPI has agreed to NZPPI taking the lead in scoping for this (under the auspices of the response and funded by MPI), and Andrew Harrison, Geoff Thorpe, Malcolm Woolmore and Ian Duncalf are involved in this work, of developing such a scheme with a pragmatic outcome and one that will make good sense.

MPI’s advice to members of the public has been updated (following NZPPI advice) to remove advice not to plant affected Myrtaceae plants in Northland, Waikato and Taranaki regions. MPI’s updated advice is provided at the conclusion of this update.

Meeting with Taranaki industry members

Andrew and Malcolm returned to Taranaki earlier this week for a follow up meeting to support local industry members. They also supported a meeting between MPI and owners of properties with myrtle rust infection.

Both meetings provided opportunities to hear first-hand what is happening in the response, to air concerns where things weren’t going right for whatever reason, and to understand what is likely to happen in the foreseeable future and how compensation claims can be progressed.

This is a challenging stage in the response for these nurseries. NZPPI is working with MPI to ensure any concerns raised are followed up in a timely manner. MPI appears to be doing so thus far and taking any lessons on board, and working with those affected to get their compensation claims underway.

NZPPI working with Retailers

Andrew, Malcolm and Debbie Pascoe held a teleconference with a small group of retailers yesterday to work through the strategies and approach retailers can take to manage this issue. Discussion included the need to take a long term view, and practical advice that should be issued to all retailers to help them take steps that will reduce risk and minimise impacts for the good of their business and the industry.

The NZPPI protocols were endorsed and recognised as a way forward in establishing confidence in receiving susceptible plant material into stores. That advice is available here.

While an understandable reaction is to stop all trading in susceptible plants, there is a clear message that needs to be shared with concerned gardeners that plants supplied from recognised garden stores are healthy plants and some simple steps taken eg copper sprays, can assist in ensuring that the plants remain in this condition and are an unlikely place for Myrtle Rust to infest.

Debbie Pascoe is assisting NZPPI with design of materials and labels that retailers will be able to use to give assurance and advice to their customers when selling Myrtaceae plants.

MPI's updated advice to the public

For those of you out and about in the long weekend, continue to keep a look out for symptoms of myrtle rust and report suspected myrtle rust to MPI.

If you're planting:

  • Know your plants and those that are affected by myrtle rust. This serious fungal disease only affects plants in the myrtle family which includes pōhutukawa, mānuka, kanuka, ramarama, and feijoa. List of plants susceptible to myrtle rust document on MPI's website.
  • If you want or need to plant myrtle species, seek advice from experts when sourcing plants, e.g. from your nursery or supplier.
  • Know where your plants come from.
  • If you’re planting Myrtaceae, keep a record of where you’ve planted them.
  • Keep alert for signs of myrtle rust. Myrtle rust becomes dormant over winter and infected plants may not show symptoms until spring.
  • Check new plantings as the weather warms up.
  • Myrtle rust primarily affects new plant growth including young shoots, flower buds, leaf surfaces and fruit.
  • More detailed information about nursery and plant hygiene is at NZ Plant Producers Inc website.

Identifying Myrtle Rust

Symptoms to look out for on Myrtaceae 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.

If you suspect Myrtle Rust

Don’t touch it or try to collect samples as this may increase the spread of this disease. Myrtle rust is readily spread by wind and can be transported on clothing, vehicles and equipment.

  • take photos e.g. of the whole plant, whole affected leaf and a close-up of the spores/affected area of the plant
  • call MPI immediately (0800 80 99 66)
  • don’t move any plants, produce or gardening equipment offsite until you hear back from MPI.


©2017 NZPPI
New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated
PO Box 3443, Wellington 6140
Level 5, 23 Waring Taylor Street, Wellington
P: 04 918 3511 | F: 04 499 9589
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