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Detected Myrtle rust cases grows to 29

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/05/2017

The total number of Myrtle rust infections found across the country has grown to 29, while scientists say evidence is mounting the disease blew over from Australia.

The Ministry for Primary Industries on Wednesday said it had identified a total of 24 infections of the fungal plant disease in Taranaki - three more than on Tuesday - three in Northland and two in Waikato.

They were at a mix of plant nurseries, private gardens, retailers/distributors and an orchard.

"While most of the infections are on seedlings, one of the most recent detections was an extensive outbreak in a very established pohutukawa hedge belt in Taranaki," the ministry said in a statement.

MPI spokesman David Yard told Radio NZ finding the disease in mature trees backed up the theory the spores had drifted over the Tasman.

"If it is, as we postulate, spores being carried from Australia, then they won't just be in two localised areas," he said.

He said scientists had identified six possible weather events that could have blown the disease over.

The fungal disease was first found at a Kerikeri, Northland, nursery in early May.

It's been found on ramarama, eucalyptus and manuka plants, but no cases on feijoa trees have been reported, MPI said.

It attacks native trees and could cause serious damage to manuka trees, used in honey production.

There is no known method for controlling it in the wild, other than applying fungicide in very small areas.

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