You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Fight is on to eradicate fungal disease

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/05/2017

Biosecurity teams are racing to stop a devastating fungal disease spreading from a Northland nursery into native tree populations.

The deadly myrtle rust fungus was spotted in a Kerikeri nursery on Tuesday and is harmful to plants in the myrtle family, including pohutukawa, rata, manuka, gum, bottlebrush and feijoa.

Response teams, led by the Ministry for Primary Industries, have now shut down the nursery where the plants with the distinctive yellow growths on their leaves were found.

"They've already sprayed the affected property with a fungicide and are now working out from the nursery in a methodical manner, searching myrtle species trees in the wider area for signs of the disease," MPI's response director Geoff Gwyn says.

"The nursery itself is under biosecurity controls and restrictions are in place on the movement of plants and people on and off the property."

The teams have also contacted all nurseries in the area to prevent the movement of infected plants, while MPI staff check 800 high risk sites across the upper North Island for signs of myrtle rust.

Products sold by the nursery are also being traced.

The fungus has been called a hideous disease by conservationists because there is no known method for controlling it in the wild, other than applying fungicide in very small areas.

It is easily spread by wind carrying its spores and no country has been able to eradicate it so far.

"However, we have the best and earliest opportunity here [at this nursery] to strike what appears to be a contained incursion. Only time will tell if this is the case," Mr Gwyn says.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said on Thursday if myrtle rust gets into manuka trees it could have a serious impact on the honey industry.

Kiwi authorities have been anticipating it's arrival since it appeared in Australia in 2010 and have since been monitoring more than 800 high risk sites.

There's no threat to humans.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon