Myrtle rust - what you need to know

30 November 2017

As we head in to summer the weather is warming up and conditions are improving. Symptoms of myrtle rust are becoming more prevalent with the increasing temperatures, and detection of new infections is as important as ever to help build a big picture of spread.

Late last week the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirmed the disease had been found for the first time in Auckland, on a commercial plant property in Waimauku. Earlier this week a second find in Auckland was also confirmed, bringing the total of known infected locations to 136, including 37 non-commercial properties in Te Puke.

MPI is focusing surveillance efforts in the areas where myrtle rust is known to be present. In the Taranaki region, surveillance has extended out to the Controlled Area boundary. The Department of Conservation (DOC) is also undertaking surveillance in targeted areas in other parts of the country, which is expected to be complete by the end of the month. To date, no myrtle rust has been found on any Public Conservation Land checked by the survey parties.

There is specific information and recommendations for specific groups, including home gardeners, nursey owners, and beekeepers, on the MPI website.

KVH, and Zespri, have been in regular discussion with MPI to ensure there is clear advice available to beekeepers. MPI’s position is that beehive movements do not pose a significant risk to the spread of myrtle rust and as such there are no restrictions on movement in place. We support this position.

However, beekeepers should speak with landowners about moving bees from myrtle rust areas to areas with no myrtle rust.

Although myrtle rust doesn’t affect kiwifruit plants or vines, you may see it on other plants on your orchard or home garden (there haven’t been any detections of myrtle rust on feijoa plants). If you find it, don’t touch it – take a photo and call MPI on 0800 80 99 66.

A free app has also been created so people can quickly and easily let officials know if they suspect they’ve found symptoms. Myrtle Rust Reporter can be used for observing and mapping common host plants that may be susceptible to the fungus, getting assistance from others to confirm identifications, and making reports.

Be on the lookout for big yellow powdery eruptions on either or both sides of the leaf; brown/grey rust pustules (older spores) which appear on older lesions; and buckled or twisted leaves which may die off.

Good hygiene practices should always be followed to help manage biosecurity threats, particularly the KVH hygiene recommendations. Plant material, vehicles, people and equipment can carry pests and diseases. Restrict access to orchards and ensure visitors, harvest staff, and contractors know and follow your hygiene requirements.