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PSA battle hits home

KERI MOLLOY
Last updated 08:02 01/11/2012

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The dreaded PSA vine disease will have a big downstream affect throughout the region, Kerikeri Fruitgrowers Association chairman Rick Curtis says.

The bacterial disease was detected on a Turners & Growers vine at Kapiro Rd last week.

The company has started to remove male vines and Kiwifruit Vine Health has established a controlled area to include 102 orchards.

Testing continues.

"It's really disappointing. We worked as hard as we could to keep it out.

"There are a lot of upset growers but it is not just them who will be affected. A lot of people are involved," Mr Curtis says.

The kiwifruit industry employs about 1000 people in season and provides about 300 permanent jobs. Many others are employed in ancillary businesses.

Growers have gone into defence mode.

A meeting in Kerikeri on Monday attracted a crowd of more than 300 people.

They were given a two-pronged message - that they will have to accept reality, the other of reassurance.

PSA is here - it has been confirmed by two laboratories - and it is not going to go away. Its spread is likely to follow that experienced in other regions.

If a proactive approach is taken, with an aggressive attempt to manage the disease, there is a good chance of getting gold kiwifruit through to harvest.

Monitoring will be stepped up to detect the first signs of the disease - leaf spotting, followed by a white discharge as the bacteria works into the plant.

Growers will be spraying their vines with a bio auxin spray, that increases resistance to disease and stress, and an antibacterial copper spray.

"Both sprays are organically registered. Low levels will be applied frequently.

"We are asking for community support. Those living near orchards may hear machines working at night," Mr Curtis says.

The reality is that growers face some tough choices, he says.

"The battle now is to get to harvest with the current crop.

"If growers can get to Christmas unaffected, they have a good chance of achieving that. Lots probably will."

Even so they will be looking at getting away from the susceptible 16A and A19 varieties and will either remove their vines or graft with the new more tolerant G3 variety."

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