Blueberry rust

Important Update 3 October 2019

With the spring growing season upon us, all Tasmanians who have blueberry plants are encouraged to remain vigilant for the signs of blueberry rust.

As part of the ongoing containment strategy, the Department is currently investigating the detection of a number of blueberry rust infected plants at a small number of Tasmanian retail nurseries. The infected plants were supplied to nurseries in the north, north-west and south of the state.

Biosecurity Tasmania has worked with the outlets to remove all blueberry plants from sale at these locations until further notice and is undertaking an ongoing investigation. The outlets involved have been very proactive and supportive of the importance of this work. 

If you have recently purchased blueberry plants and have concerns, please contact Biosecurity Tasmania on (03) 6165 3777.
Biosecurity Tasmania, Officers are available to come to your home and inspect the plants.  Suspect plants should not be disturbed or moved.

​​​​​​​If you suspect that your plants may be infected with blueberry rust please call Biosecurity Tasmania on (03) 6165 3777.

​​​Blueberry rust in Tasmania​

Blueberry rust is present at low levels in Tasmania.

A containment strategy has been implemented focussed on reducing the risk of movement of the disease and working with local industry to meet requirements to enable ongoing market access where blueberry rust import requirements are in place.

Ongoing surveys are part of this program.

The Department has negotiated protocol arrangements with states that have quarantine requirements in relation to blueberry rust. This means that growers can continue to access interstate markets.


 

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 DPIPWE Response to 2016 Blueberry Rust Detection  (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 Biosecurity Tasmania on (03) 6165 3777 or 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. Market access for the 2019-20 season is being negotiated for those businesses wanting to export to Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

There are no import requirements for blueberry rust for New South Wales and Queensland.

For further information on market access contact (03) 6777 2160


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


Fruit Growers Tasmania Tel (03) 6169 2059 office@fruitgrowerstas.org.au


Surveillance

State-wide surveys will continue each season. These have an extra focus on export business. The crops and fruit are inspected to meet market access requirements.


​Remember if you suspect that your plants may be infected with blueberry rust please call Biosecurity Tasmania on (03) 6165 3777.

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