Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Plant Plague $100M Threat a[euro][approximately]Equine Influenza' for Plants

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Plant Plague $100M Threat a[euro][approximately]Equine Influenza' for Plants

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER WEEKES Business editor

AUSTRALIA'S biosecurity experts have been criticised for not acting earlier to prevent the spread of Myrtle rust disease that is now threatening theregion's $100 million tea tree industry.

A frustrated Tony Larkman, the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association's development officer, said despite industry protests the national biosecurity authority refused to take the Myrtle rust threat seriously when the highly transferable disease was first dis-covered on the NSW Central Coast in April last year.

aAs an industry we are not happy with how this has been managed,a he said.

aWe made a lot of noise at the time and we were simply ignored.a

Plant biosecurity initially made a decision in April not to try to control the disease, Mr Larkman said. After a few months itdecided to try and control it, but it was atoo little too latea.

aThis is equine influenza for plants and just because they don't run around on a track, we got ignored.

aWe are very distressed and angry about how this has been handled.a

As reported yesterday Industry and Investment NSW has confirmed Myrtle rust, which originated in South America, had now infected 140 properties on the mid-south and North Coast.

There are confirmed outbreaks of thedisease in nurseries in Byron Bay andAlstonville and investigations are continuing about a possible outbreak in Lismore.

It is estimated there are about 300,000ha of lucrative tea tree under plantation in NSW, with the majority on the Northern Rivers.

aWe are incredibly nervous,a Mr Larkman said. aWe are resigned to the fact it's not a[approximately]if it gets into our plantations' but a[approximately]when'.

aOur biggest problem is with the new strain of tea tree we have got. They are constantly growing and constantly in flush, and that's when the rust is at its most dangerous.a

He described the recent humid and wet conditions as athe perfect breeding grounda for the rust that produces lesions on young, growing leaves and shoots. …

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