NEW TRANS-TASMAN PARTNERSHIP TAKES THE FIGHT TO MYRTLE RUST

B3 partners, Plant & Food Research (PFR) and Scion, have been successful in the latest round of science investment funding from MBIE’s Catalyst Strategic Fund for a project addressing the threat of myrtle rust to New Zealand. 

 “The funding of this programme is hugely encouraging, given the wide range of science questions we are currently facing on myrtle rust in New Zealand. This project will form an important component of, and will build on, the proposed longer-term research initiative dedicated to finding answers as to how New Zealand can combat the myrtle rust threat” says Dr Rebecca Martin (Senior Advisor, Conservation, MPI).

This programme also reinforces the development of a key trans-Tasman partnership between B3 and Plant Health Australia (PHA) to further align regional border biosecurity interests.

The Catalyst project has three key aims: to establish the susceptibility of key species to myrtle rust, build scientific knowledge for successfully storing Myrtaceae germplasm, and develop ‘in the field’ plant pathogen detection and surveillance systems, and reflects the priorities identified at the recent myrtle rust science workshop.

“This is very important and timely research now that myrtle rust is now present on the New Zealand mainland. The fungal disease threatens many species that have environmental, economic, social and cultural importance, including the indigenous pōhutukawa, rātā, kānuka, mānuka, maire and ramarama, and exotic plants such as Eucalyptus species and feijoa” says Dr Smith the project leader from PFR.

“Many biosecurity issues are too large for one organisation or sector to tackle alone. Myrtle rust is a prime example and we are very pleased to receive support from the Catalyst Fund to help reduce the threat this disease poses to our myrtles” say Dr Beccy Ganley, Scion Research Leader.

The Catalyst Fund supports international research partnerships and scientific cooperation. In this case, New Zealand researchers will be working closely with colleagues in leading biosecurity organisations across the Tasman, with Plant Health Australia and B3 providing the overall coordination.

“Australia and New Zealand face many of the same issues and opportunities in bio-protection and biosecurity, so high-quality collaborations of this nature are very important. Smart partnerships like this achieve better outcomes than working alone” says Dr David Teulon, B3 Director. 

“New Zealand and Australia have much to learn from each other with regard to the invasive species in their respective countries.  Myrtle rust is something that Australia has been dealing with for seven years and our experience can really help New Zealand” says Greg Fraser (Executive Director and CEO, PHA).  B3 and its partners are developing a number of initiatives with PHA in areas such as the Brown marmorated stink bug and sentinel plants.

This project will employ the expertise from PFR, Scion, PHA, Te Turi Whakamātaki (National Maori Biosecurity Network), the Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wellington Botanic Gardens and Kew Gardens (UK) and will link closely to other science initiatives being developed through B3, the Biological Heritage NSC and co-ordinated through MPI’s Myrtle Rust Strategic Science Advisory Group.

 

Contact:  Grant [dot] Smith [at] plantandfood [dot] co [dot] nz