Horizons joins hunt for myrtle rust

The Ministry of Primary Industries has asked Horizons Regional Council to assist in the hunt for the serious fungal disease, myrtle rust.

Myrtle rust was first detected in New Zealand in a Northland nursery in May and is believed to have arrived via spores from Australia. Severe infestations can kill affected plants in the myrtle family, such as pōhutukawa and mānuka, and have long-term impacts on the regeneration of young plants and seedlings. 
Horizons biodiversity, biosecurity, and partnerships manager, Rod Smillie, says although myrtle rust hasn’t been detected in the Horizons Region, his team has been asked to identify if any myrtle species are to be included in upcoming riparian plantings.
“MPI wants to know where the plant material is being sourced from and where it’s to be planted,” says Mr Smillie.
“This is to determine if any of these plants could have been in contact with infected plants before making their way to us. Myrtle species are included in the mix of seedlings to be planted in riparian and biodiversity sites so we are currently collating the information required to send back to MPI this afternoon.”
Mr Smillie says Horizons endorses the MPI request for  the public to check their own gardens and planting areas for myrtle rust and to report any suspicious detections to MPI on 0800 80 99 66. 
“Mrytle rust generally attacks soft, new growth, including leaf surfaces, shoots, buds, flowers, and fruit. Symptoms to look for include bright yellow powdery spots on both sides of leaves.
“If myrtle rust is detected in the Region our biosecurity staff will assist MPI in responding to the event so we have asked staff to be on standby from today onwards as a precaution,” he says.
Information on myrtle rust can found at http://www.mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/responding/alerts/myrtle-rust 
The first detection of the disease in mainland New Zealand was at a Northland nursery in early May 2017. To date myrtle rust has been found in Northland and Taranaki. It is also widespread on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group, about 1,100km to the north-east of New Zealand.