NZ 'may have lost battle' against myrtle rust

Jamie Morton, NZ Herald 3rd December 2017

New Zealand may have "lost the battle" in beating myrtle rust, a top scientist fears, and the official leading the response against the serious plant disease says we could be facing the loss of some vulnerable species.

But there's now some hope that manuka, the lifeblood of our $300 million manuka honey industry, could fare better than first thought against the wind-blown scourge.

Myrtle rust is a fungus that attacks and can seriously affect myrtle species plants, including some significant natives such as pohutukawa, manuka, feijoa, bottlebrush, kanuka and rata.

BioHeritage Director Dr Andrea Byrom feared efforts may be doomed.

"It doesn't mean we shouldn't be having as good a crack at it as we can, because it hasn't been detected in natural ecosystems yet, so there is still hope," she said.

"But the reality is, given where in the country it's been found so far, we may have lost that battle."

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