Myrtle rust spreads to five properties in Northland and Taranaki video

Myrtle rust has been found at in nurseries in Northland and Taranaki.
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Myrtle rust has been found at in nurseries in Northland and Taranaki.

Five properties, including three plant businesses in Taranaki, have been confirmed positive with myrtle rust infection, and more locations are expected to be discovered.

Two nurseries in Waitara and a garden centre in New Plymouth have been confirmed by Ministry for Primary Industries as affected. 

A nursery and adjoining property in Kerikeri were the first two properties to be identified as infected earlier in May. 

Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease that attacks members of the myrtaceae plant family, which includes native pohutukawa, manuka, kanuka and rata trees.

The new finds are disappointing but not unexpected, MPI incident controller David Yard said in a statement.

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The ministry expected to continue to find new locations of infection given the most likely scenario is that the fungal spores entered New Zealand from Australia during a major wind event.

All infected properties are now restricted places, meaning there are restrictions on the movement of plants or other risk materials off the sites.

Locations are being treated with fungicide, risk plants are being safely destroyed, and surveillance is underway in the areas surrounding the properties for signs of the disease.

There are two main reasons why the rust is being found in plant nurseries, Yard said.

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Growing conditions there are ideal for the fungus with many vulnerable young plants in sheltered, warm and damp environments. In addition, there has been a large amount of communication with the nursery industry and growers have been particularly vigilant in checking their plants, he said. 

Yard said MPI encourages members of the public to report any suspected signs of myrtle rust to MPI's Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66, to not to touch the rust or the plant and to take note of the location and take photos of the symptoms and the plant.

 - Taranaki Daily News

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