Public help needed in battle against Myrtle rust

Industry & Investment NSW (I&I NSW) is calling on home gardeners and people who work with plants in the family Myrtaceae to keep a close look out for anything that looks like Myrtle rust and to report it immediately to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline.

“Months of the hard work by I&I NSW and supporting agencies is paying off in the battle against the exotic plant disease Myrtle rust, but public awareness and reporting have never been more important,” said Chief Plant Protection Officer Dr Satendra Kumar.

“After being detected in April this year, an exhaustive investigation of plant and people movements from infected properties led to the successful discovery and destruction of infected plants at multiple sites across NSW.

“I&I NSW survey teams have completed over 400 visits since the initial detection in April and the number of new positive detections continues to fall each week.

“Despite the large number of site visits, Myrtle rust has been isolated to only 39 sites in NSW, with no known movements interstate and no detections in bushland.

“All infected sites have been quarantined and plants in infected lines destroyed.”

Dr Kumar said evidence to date suggests the disease is mainly spread on infected plants and contaminated equipment, rather than by wind and natural means.

“This has given hope to the team of staff who have been working to contain the outbreak,” he said.

“The outstanding ongoing effort of all staff involved in this response has been crucial to its success.

“Incident Controller Kevin Cooper and the I&I NSW First Response Team continue to prove invaluable on the frontline, along with volunteers from across all areas of the Department and some from interstate.”

Dr Kumar also acknowledged the critical role played by industry and community organisations, including the Nursery and Garden Industry of NSW and the ACT, the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association, cut flower growers and various bush regeneration and environmental groups who continue to pass on information to an extensive network of contacts across Australia.

“The next few months will be critical in the operation as temperatures and plant movements increase around the state,” Dr Kumar said.

“We need anyone who works with native plants and plants in the family Myrtaceae, including home gardeners, to keep a close look out for anything that looks like Myrtle rust and to report it immediately to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

“Early detection is critical for successful containment and eradication.”

Two varieties of the plant, Austromyrtus inophloia ‘Aurora’ and ‘Blushing Beauty’ are of high risk as these are particularly susceptible to Myrtle rust.

More information and images of the disease are available on the NSW Myrtle rust website

Media contact: Tom Braz (02) 6391 3579 or 0428 256 596