Myrtle Rust Reporter
Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) is a serious biosecurity threat to NZ and effective surveillance to detect incursions is crucial to support response activities and prevent further establishment.
Currently surveillance programmes rely on structured surveys that target particular species or sites that are considered high risk but with a biosecurity team of 4.7 million we can do better. As citizen scientists one way to help is by mapping potential host plants and then monitoring them periodically for signs of the disease.
As part of the New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge Stephen Pawson and his team are working with central and regional government, Māori, and primary industry to develop mobile technology tools to protect New Zealand from biosecurity threats. This two-year programme aims to provide an enduring and flexible model for a fast, easy-to-use system for identifying, reporting, and prompting immediate and appropriate responses to, plant and animal pests.
In response to the myrtle rust incursion Steve and his team have developed an app for observing common host plants that may be susceptible to myrtle rust and getting assistance from others to confirm the identification. The app can then be used for reporting potential infestations of myrtle rust to the Ministry for Primary Industries.
This app uses NatureWatch NZ, the New Zealand online community for nature watchers, naturalists and biodiversity experts. It is part of the global iNaturalist network. The myrtle rust reporter app is freely available in the iPhone and Android app stores. Existing NatureWatch NZ users can sign in with their current usernames and passwords.
As myrtle rust poses a significant threat to New Zealand Myrtaceae (mānuka, rātā, pōhutukawa, ramarama, lilly pilly), species that are taonga to Māori, the app is bilingual to facilitate a Māori community response.
Instructions for use
We would like you to find a dozen plants in your neighbourhood that are potential hosts of myrtle rust. We have chosen 6 of the most common host plant species and have fact sheets on each to assist you in their identification. It is vital that you map these host plants so others can see where you are looking and if necessary pick a different set of trees. To see where others are looking visit the project.
If you are unsure of a plant you can submit an observation of it and the NatureWatchNZ community will help you identify it. To see these community comments and IDs use the ‘me’ page in the app when you have mobile data or wifi coverage.
There are many plants from the myrtle family and if you want to choose a different myrtle species just click on the ‘record a different myrtle’ button.
Once you have located these plants keep an eye on them. You will become the kaitiaki (or guardian) of these specific plants and they are the sentinels in your neighbourhood.
If you see something suspicious that might be myrtle rust then submit your observation of the symptoms via the app (ideally take a photo of the upper surface of the leaf and ensure you include at least one entire leaf so that the identity of the host species can be confirmed) and ring MPI immediately on 0800 80 99 66 to discuss your observation.
Sometimes it is hard to get a decent photo of small things but you can take useful photos with smart phones through a magnifying glass or hand lens, if you have one. There are also affordable clip-on macro lenses you can buy for smart phones if you're keen.
The team includes: Stephen Pawson, Andrea Grant and Eckehard Brockerhoff all from Scion; and Jon Sullivan and Melanie Mark-Shadbolt both from Lincoln University.
This app was built with support from an Envirolink Grant to Northland Regional Council, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Scion.