Blueberry rust

​​​​​Important Update 10 November 2020

Tasmanians are asked to be vigilant for signs of blueberry rust following the detection of blueberry rust spores on imported blueberries bought in southern Tasmania.The suspect blueberries were recently reported to Biosecurity Tasmania by a member of the public and confirmed through diagnostic processes.

Following confirmation of blueberry rust, Biosecurity Tasmania has acted quickly to follow up on the detection and is working closely with the retail outlet to remove any further affected blueberries.

Blueberry rust is present in low levels in Tasmania and a local containment strategy is in place to reduce the risk of movement of the disease, together with strict biosecurity import requirements to help reduce the risk of blueberry rust entering the state.

If you SEE something unusual in blueberries that you purchase, such as yellow-orange pustules on the fruit: SECURE and REPORT.

​​​​​​​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.

The containment strategy has seen a recent drop in the number of infected premises from seven to four with no new crop infections since December 2018.  Survey results have also suggested that the amount of rust on-site at one infected premises has steadily decreased over time due to the treatment program in place as part of their site management plan.  This means that the chances of the rust spreading from that property has greatly decreased.

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.

Download blueberry rust fact sheets:​

 ​Bisecurity Tasmania - Blueberry Rust Factsheet   (410Kb)



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.​

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 fungal pathogen 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 continues to work with industry in efforts to control and contain blueberry rust in Tasmania. Market access for the 2020/2021 season has been successfully negotiated for those businesses wanting to export to Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia under specific trade protocols and arrangements.

There are no import requirements for blueberry rust host produce for the New South Wales and Queensland markets.

For further information on market access contact (03) 6777 2160 or (03) 6475 4138

Industry Liaison

The Department and Fruit Growers Tasmania are working together to deliver a Farm Hygiene Program for berry growers.

Funding has been made available to Fruit Growers Tasmania (FGT) to Implement the program, which is 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. 

Applications for the program are still open.

Who to contact

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


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



Back Home