No myr­tle rust in win­ter

Hauraki Herald - - OUT & ABOUT - THOMAS MANCH

‘‘But what we do ex­pect that ar­eas we don't know about will show them­selves come spring.’’

The myr­tle rust threat has abated in the Waikato, but the dis­ease could be ly­ing dor­mant over win­ter.

A sec­ond Waikato case of the rust-coloured fun­gal dis­ease which at­tacks na­tive trees was found in a Te Kuiti nurs­ery in May.

Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries ( MPI) has con­firmed no other af­fected plants have been found in the Waikato or Coro­man­del.

MPI re­sponse man­ager Dr Cather­ine Duthie said the rust may be­gin to spread dur­ing the com­ing spring and sum­mer.

‘‘Given that it’s win­ter time and the symp­toms are sup­pressed dur­ing the cold weather … once the weather warms up, things start sporu­lat­ing and the spores get blown by the wind - we will see spread at that point,’’ she said.

The wind­borne dis­ease is thought to have blown over from Aus­tralia and con­tin­ues to heav­ily af­fect north Taranaki and Te Puke, where MPI con­tin­ues to iden­tify new cases al­most daily.

‘‘None of the ev­i­dence, in terms of the age of the in­fec­tions that we’re see­ing, in­di­cates that there’s been any spread from that ini­tial dis­tri­bu­tion of in­fec­tions,’’ Duthie said.

The De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DOC) con­tin­ues to con­duct ex­ten­sive sur­veil­lance for the dis­ease in the Coro­man­del, tar­get­ing spe­cific ar­eas based on wind pat­tern mod­el­ling. No rust has been found.

DOC has also been col­lect­ing and pre­serv­ing seeds from the dif­fer­ent re­gional species of af­fected plants through­out the coun­try.

If no fur­ther spread is iden­ti­fied over spring and sum­mer, it may be pos­si­ble to elim­i­nate the rust from lo­cal re­gions, Duthie said.

‘‘But what we do ex­pect that ar­eas we don’t know about will show them­selves come spring.’’

Myr­tle rust at­tacks plants in the myr­tle fam­ily, in­clud­ing po­hutukawa, rata, manuka, gum, bot­tle­brush and fei­joa.

The dis­ease dam­ages fo­liage, and ex­poses a plant to sec­ondary dis­ease.

Kawhia residents ex­pressed con­cern for a grove of scared po­hutukawa which line the coastal town’s shores in June.

Ngati Mahuta kau­matua Tom Moke com­mended the Otoro­hanga District Coun­cil’s re­sponse.

Coun­cil work­ers have checked the an­cient Tangi-teko­rowhiti tree weekly, and the com­mu­nity was now in­formed and vig­i­lant for rust.

‘‘There’s been no sign of it ... it may have been in Te Kuiti, but it’s cer­tainly not out here.

‘‘It must be hard for it to spread in win­ter­time, so sum­mer­time will tell.’’

TOM LEE/FAIR­FAX NZ

No more cases of myr­tle rust have been found in the Waikato since May, but the dis­ease may be ly­ing dor­mant. Dr Cather­ine Duthie

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