Restrictions lifted on feijoas in Taranaki after being cleared of myrtle rust threat
Feijoa lovers can breathe a sigh of relief after ministry officials put the plant in the low risk category for infection from myrtle rust.
Growers will also be relieved after the Ministry for Primary Industries lifted restrictions for moving feijoa plants in and out of Taranaki after it concluded there was little risk of them spreading myrtle rust.
Since myrtle rust was found in New Zealand earlier this year, there had not been a single feijoa plant found with the infection, the New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated said in a statement.
"MPI has taken samples from feijoa plants in nurseries and home gardens where other plants are infected with the disease and the feijoa plants were clear.
* Myrtle rust spread continues but at slower rate
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* Restricted myrtle rust movement zones imposed
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"This information, combined with Australian data showing feijoas appear to be resistant, has led to us concluding that feijoas present a low risk of spreading myrtle rust to other uninfected myrtle plants."
New Zealand Feijoa Growers Association manager Ian Turk said that while the lifting of restrictions was great news, they would continue to monitor the situation.
The warmer spring weather provided ideal growing conditions for the fungus.
"We have been and remain hopeful that it won't affect us but we don't really know how myrtle rust will grow in New Zealand. We're watching it carefully."
He said there were a handful of commercial orchards in Taranaki and the region was not a major growing area.
Turk said the association talked to growers and scientists in Australia and South America when the fungus was first found. He said they were unable to find any evidence that myrtle rust impacted feijoa plants.
Although feijoas are a member of the myrtaceae family of trees that are susceptible to the fungus, there was no evidence that it was affecting the trees, he said.
So far, myrtle rust has been found in Northland, Waikato, Te Puke, and Taranaki. It is also widespread on Raoul Island in the Kermadec group north-east of Northland.
Spores of the fungus attacks plants belonging to the myrtle family and can easily spread across large distances by wind, or via insects, birds, people, or machinery.
According to MPI's website, more than 60 properties in Taranaki were affected by myrtle rust.
Putting restrictions on moving myrtle plants and material out of the area where the rust has been found will help prevent the fungus spreading to other parts of the country.
MPI introduced a controlled area in June, extending 10 kilometres out from each property where myrtle rust was found. The restriction made it illegal to move myrtle plants, with the exception now of feijoas, or green waste from these plants out of the controlled area. People could still buy and plant the species inside the controlled area.