Psa-V spreads in greater Waikato
Nearly 30 kiwifruit orchards in the greater Waikato region are now infected with Psa-V, the vine-killing disease that has brought the gold fruit export industry to its knees.
An additional 36 orchards in the Waihi area have the bacterial infection.
There are 131 registered kiwifruit orchards in the Waikato, which until Psa-V hit in August, contributed around 20 per cent of the country’s export organic kiwifruit crop. Last year they earned $29 million and employed 300 at the season's peak.
The Kiwifruit Vine Health agency said as at this week 14 Waikato orchards have been confirmed with the disease and 15 on the Coromandel Peninsula.
The next kiwifruit harvest is in April and KVH Waikato co-ordinator Richard Glenn said for many growers this would be their last gold fruit crop until new graftings of hopefully less vulnerable varieties got established.
‘‘It’s going to be a tough five years. Kiwifruit growing in New Zealand has changed forever.’’
KVH said 74 new Psa-V cases were notified this week. They included one in Waihi, three in the Waikato and four in Coromandel.
The disease which was discovered in kiwifruit growing capital Te Puke two years ago, has now spread throughout the North Island with 1887 orchards, or 65 per cent of all kiwifruit growing hectares now involved, although some orchards are only partially infected.
The disease, believed to have originated in China, has proved particularly lethal to gold kiwifruit vines and in particular the Zespri variety Hort16A, although green fruit vines are also affected.
Gold fruit exports were a lucrative earner for the former $1 billion blue chip export industry.
KVH says Psa-V cannot be eradicated now it is established and Glenn said the message was being ‘‘hammered’’ that regular defensive copper spraying was now essential.
Meanwhile growers were learning a lot about how not to accelerate the disease, through new pruning and management methods and strict orchard hygiene measures, he said.
A Lincoln University study earlier this year concluded Psa-V could cost the industry nearly $900m and hundreds of jobs in years to come.