Blueberry rust

​Blueb​​erry Rust detection update December 2016

Tasmanian Blueberry growers will continue to be able to export their fruit in to the Victorian market this summer following finalisation of special export requirements between Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) and Victorian authorities.

Growers with property freedom from the rust or with approved treatment processes in place would be able to access the Victorian market.

The Department is finalising surveys of properties that export to provide blueberry rust freedom certification to growers with no evidence of disease.

Blueberry rust was found on a North-West property in August 2016 and ongoing surveillance has not detected the disease at other properties at this stage.

The current incursion currently is limited to one property however, it represents a major proportion of Tasmania’s blueberry crop.

Because the current incursion was of a much larger scale than the previous one, potentially involving tens of thousands of plants, with the possibility of re-infection, a containment and ongoing management strategy was adopted to address the disease.   

Strict farm hygiene based restrictions have been put in place at the infected property to minimise the risk of further movement of the disease.

Targeted surveillance has not identified the rust at any other sites outside the original detection site at this stage.

The focus of the management approach now is reducing the risk of further movement of the disease, and assisting the industry to meet requirements to enable interstate market access over the coming season.

Blueberry rust will still remain a regulated disease for the coming summer but will be relisted as a List B disease within 12 months under the Plant Quarantine Act 1997 which means it is present in Tasmania but restricted in distribution and/or under official control. The industry will be informed of any changed conditions of trade 

The Department will be continuing to work closely with Fruit Growers Tasmania and the Australian Blueberry Growers Association and keep them informed of the latest developments and requirements in place to minimise risk of further movement of disease and enable movement of product in to interstate markets.

Anyone with blueberry plants is encouraged to remain vigilant for evidence of the disease and report any unusual signs on blueberry plants to Biosecurity Tasmania.

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 defoliatio
​​​(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 urediniospores mainly via wind. In glasshouse environments, urediniospores 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 has 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 a farm biosecurity measures that will assist in protecting your property from the entry and spread of various 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
  • On-site disease identification information should be on-site and be easily accessible
  • 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

Further Information

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).

Download the blueberry rust fact sheet.

Remember if you suspect that your plants may be infected with a new disease please call Biosecurity Tasmania on 1800 084 881


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