Fight against devastating disease begins
New Zealand’s horticulture and wine industry groups have been awarded a Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) grant to progress research into an invasive and unwanted plant pathogen spreading overseas.
Xylella fastidiosa, currently leaving its mark across Europe and the USA, could have devastating consequences for many horticultural industries, New Zealand’s culturally important plants and private gardeners should it arrive here.
While kiwifruit is not a reported host of Xylella, KVH is supporting this research effort to give us greater certainty of our status and increase our level of preparedness.
The SFF project proposes a phased approach to better identify the risks posed by the pathogen to New Zealand’s primary industries and enable development of a cross-sector approach to preparation and response should it be found in New Zealand.
During the first phase known and potential impacts on a range of New Zealand’s crop and significant taonga species will be identified, as well as insects with the potential to vector spread. Phase 2 will focus on education and awareness to highlight findings and their implications. Phase 3 will then focus on developing research priorities to be progressed through a cross sector Operational Agreement for the pathogen under the Government Industry Agreement for biosecurity readiness and response (GIA).
The project is likely to begin early this year and will be completed within 12 months.
The Xylella Action Group was formed in early 2018 under the framework provided by GIA. Membership comprises representatives from many industry groups and organisations including KVH, NZ Apples and Pears, NZ Avocado, B3, Dairy NZ, GIA, HortNZ, MPI, New Zealand Citrus Growers, NZPPI, New Zealand Winegrowers, Summerfruit NZ, Te Tira Whakamātaki, TomatoesNZ and Zespri.
Image: Olive trees in Italy, hundreds of years old, dying from Xylella fastidiosa (National Geographic website).