Blueberry rust

​​Blueberry rust in Tasmania​

If you suspect that your plants may be infected with blueberry rust please call Biosecurity Tasmania on 1800 084 881.


Blueberry rust was found on a North-West property in August 2016. It has since been identified on​ two smaller nearby properties (detected March 2017).
 
Because the incursion is of a much larger scale than a previous one eradicated in 2015, a containment and ongoing management strategy was adopted to address the disease through the past growing season.

The focus of the management approach is now reducing the risk of further movement of the disease, and working with local ​industry to meet requirements to enable interstate market access.

The Department will continue to work closely with blueberry industries in coming months as well as interstate authorities to maintain future domestic market access.
 

 

Scientific assessment of current strategy

A regulated containment strategy is currently in place in response to the detection of blueberry rust in Tasmania.

Based on feedback from growers, the Department has undertaken a scientific assessment of potential treatments of blueberry rust to identify if any treatments were currently available that might enable eradication of the disease to be attempted based on the Tasmanian situation.

The assessment involved consulting with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI)  as well as Biosecurity Tasmania plant health specialists.

The scientific assessment by TIA concluded that the rust pathogen could not be eradicated from the State. The advice from NSW DPI was that they would not recommend defoliation on a commercial scale as it had no technical basis as a response technique.

Based on those assessments, the Department will continue to implement the regulated containment strategy and working with growers to enable ongoing market access.

Containment is a recognised response to pest and disease incursions that focusses on limiting movement of the disease and putting in place the requirements to enable ongoing market access.

  • The containment response includes:
    Strict quarantine measures on infected properties;
  • Regular inspections of infected properties to ensure compliance with quarantine requirements;
  • Ongoing surveillance of properties to provide confirmation of properties free of disease; and
  • Working with industry to ensure good on farm hygiene at non-infected properties to reduce the risk of infection.

The Department will also continue to review relevant scientific information that becomes available that may inform its ongoing approach to the disease.

 

Download the documents

  Scientific advice prepared by TIA on blueberry rust in Tasmania   (128Kb)

  Advice from NSW DPI - defoliation and blueberry rust   (89Kb)

  Review of the Current DPIPWE Response to Blueberry Rust   (331Kb)


 

What is blueberry rust?

Blueberry rust (Thekopsora minima) is a serious disease of blueberries that causes extensive defoliation and may cause plant death on plants with severe infections.

Blueberry rust is a fungi and is classified under Tasmania's Plant Quarantine Act 1997 as a List A disease.

What to look for:

  • Initial small yellow, chlorotic leaf spots on upper surface of young leaves
  • Lesions turn rust/brown coloured and enlarge as the infection progresses (Fig 1.)
  • Yellow-orange powdery pustules develop on the underside of leaves (Fig 2.)
  • Similar pustules may also appear on blueberry fruit (Fig 3.)
  • Premature leaf drop and defoliation
​​​(Click to enlarge images​​​)


When do symptoms first appear?

In the field, the symptoms appear on leaves by mid-season at any growth stage of plants and on fruits by late season.

How does blueberry rust spread?

The disease spreads by airborne spores mainly via wind. In glasshouse environments, spores can be carried by people, on clothing for example, when walking past and contacting plants.

What to do if you suspect you have an unusual plant disease.

It's very important that you not disturb or move the plant. Care should also be taken to ensure that any clothes or equipment do not become contaminated.

You should, as soon as possible, phone the plant disease hotline on 1800 084 881 and report the symptoms noticeable on the plant. 

Ways you can protect your crops

Adopt a range of farm biosecurity measures that will assist in protecting your property from the entry and spread of pests and diseases. Farm biosecurity is a shared responsibility, and that of every person visiting or working on your property.

  • Ensure you and your staff are aware of plant diseases, and are familiar with symptoms
  • Disease identification information should be on-site and be easily accessible to all staff and visitors
  • Limit the access of people (visitors and staff) onto your property
  • Disinfect all equipment/vehicles that move off-site and return to operate on the property
  • Implement a hygiene protocol for essential visitors (contractors, suppliers, etc)
  • Restrict all non-business vehicles from entry onto the property
  • Minimise or allocate specific staff who might come in contact with host material
  • Source plant material from known professional growers with good accreditation
  • Inspect imported blueberry host material prior to introduction to your property

For detailed information, together with a range of farm biosecurity resources that will assist in protecting your property – and livelihood – visit the Farm Biosecurity Program website (the Program is a joint initiative of Animal Health Australia (AHA) and Plant Health Australia (PHA).

Market Access

DPIPWE will continue to work with industry in efforts to control and contain blueberry rust in Tasmania. The department will be working with industry and interstate authorities to identify requirements for market access for the next season.

Regular briefings with growers and industry representative bodies will be held to provide updates on the progress of the program to control and contain blueberry rust in Tasmania.

What is in place

Infected properties will continue to be subject to quarantine controls with conditions in place to cover the movement of host materials off the property, to reduce the risk of movement of the disease.

Example of Quarantine controls on infected properties

These restrictions may vary between properties due to variations in enterprise type.

Entry to orchard is controlled - Wash-down of all vehicles and tools, footbaths and work clothing to remain onsite. Site map is prepared and provided to Biosecurity Tasmania to show where activity is occuring.

On exit from orchard - Full decontamination of vehicles (in an approved wash-down area), clothing and tools.

Fruit harvest - May be allowed with strict hygiene measures e.g. Fruit from infected plants not to leave property without freezing at required temperatures.

Prunings to be buried in an approved manner - recorded and mapped

Spray regime - must be documented for audit

Monitoring - Weekly checks of all plants and recorded

Weekly checks conducted by Biosecurity Tasmania staff.

Industry Liaison

The Department and Fruit Growers Tasmania will work together to develop a Farm Hygiene Program for berry growers.

Funding has been made available to Fruit Growers Tasmania (FGT) to Implement the program, which will be targeted to blueberry growers. The aim of this program is to assist small growers, in particular, to adapt operations and protect their farms from a range of pests and diseases and to support them in management for market access requirements.

Who to contact

Market access information: Domestic Trade & Liaison Officer (Plant Biosecurity) Tel: (03) 6777 2160
Fruit Growers Tasmania Tel (03) 6169 2059 office@fruitgrowerstas.org.au

Surveillance

What has occurred

State wide surveys were undertaken during the 2016/17 season, with an extra focus on export business, these crops and fruit were inspected to meet market access requirements.

What will happen in future seasons?

Continued state wide surveys of blueberry growing properties will be required each season. Three complete surveys will be required each year with at least two being within the cropping season.     

Remember if you suspect that your plants may be infected with blueberry rust please call Biosecurity Tasmania on 1800 084 881.

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