Biosecurity Queensland is preparing for a rise in myrtle rust infections in Queensland with warmer days and wet weather on the way.
Director of the Myrtle Rust Program, Mike Ashton said myrtle rust was likely to flourish in the Queensland summer conditions.
“Since this time last month, and specifically following the recent warmer days in South East Queensland, we’ve seen more than a 300 per cent increase in public reports of myrtle rust,” Mr Ashton said.
“Unfortunately, myrtle rust loves the warm, wet conditions that our Queensland summers produce so we’re gearing up for a significant increase in the number of reports over the coming months.”
Myrtle rust is now widespread in South East Queensland with recent detections of the disease in nurseries in Cairns and Townsville.
“Myrtle rust can’t be contained or eradicated, but the more we know about the disease the more we can learn about how best to manage it and its potential impacts,” Mr Ashton said.
“Myrtle rust’s ‘notifiable status’ was recently revoked–meaning there is no longer a legal requirement to report sightings of the disease.
“However, I strongly encourage people to continue reporting because being able to track the spread of the disease, and identify its host range and impacts, helps us develop management strategies and better target our information and advice to affected businesses and communities.”
Biosecurity Queensland recently hosted a national research and development workshop to discuss current and proposed myrtle rust research opportunities.
“Research is incredibly important as the disease is new to Australia and there are many things we don’t know about how it will behave in the Australian environment,” he said.
“We were very happy with how the workshop went with over 50 researchers and representatives from around the country joining in the discussions.
“One of the main objectives of the meeting was to identify key gaps in our current knowledge and understanding of the disease and its management, and to identify opportunities for further research to fill those gaps.
“I believe we achieved this objective and we’re looking forward to the development of some interesting projects in the future.”
The first signs of myrtle rust are tiny raised purple spots or pustules on new leaves. After a few days, the pustules erupt into distinctive, fluffy-looking egg-yolk yellow spores.
Myrtle rust attacks young, soft, actively growing leaves, shoot tips and young stems, as well as fruits and flower parts of susceptible plants.
If left untreated, myrtle rust can cause deformation of leaves, heavy defoliation of branches, dieback, stunted growth and even plant death.
For more information on myrtle rust or to report a detection call 13 25 23 or visit www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au