Myrtle rust research programme

Research is vital to help us understand and limit the impact of myrtle rust on our myrtle plants. Find out about myrtle rust research projects commissioned by MPI.

About the research programme

To help us better understand myrtle rust and limit its impact, MPI has commissioned a comprehensive research programme with more than 20 projects valued at over $4.5 million. The projects will be completed over 2 years to June 2019.

We'll request further research funding from Cabinet later in 2018.

All completed research reports are peer-reviewed by technical experts.

List of research projects

Listed below are summaries of current research projects and the organisations involved.

  • Scope and develop a plant production biosecurity scheme for nurseries and garden centres (New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated). 
  • Alternative fungicides and possible impacts of current myrtle rust fungicides on non-target species (MPI and NSW Department of Primary Industries).

Scion projects

  • Build engagement and community support through better understanding of options for long-term management of myrtle rust.
  • A desktop review of potential disease control tools.
  • Map myrtle species.
  • Develop and test tools for surveillance and managing myrtle rust.
  • Scope a breeding programme for resistant myrtle species.
  • Develop monitoring approaches to assess environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts over time, and to understand the impact of potential management actions.

Plant & Food Research projects

Projects in collaboration with Scion Research, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Kew Gardens, and Australian myrtle rust researchers:

  • Susceptibility of native and important exotic species to myrtle rust, including variability within species.
  • Identification of periods when myrtle rust symptoms aren't visible in plants.
  • Assessment of the risk of introducing other types of myrtle rust to New Zealand.
  • Identification of genetic markers for resistance to myrtle rust.
  • Resistant plants and their relationship with myrtle rust living in them.
  • Myrtle rust genome sequencing (de novo).
  • A national seed banking and germplasm research strategy.

Plant & Food Research is also testing cryopreservation of seeds and tissues followed by propagation for myrtle species that can't be stored using conventional methods.

Wellington Gardens projects

  • Non-conventional preservation techniques for swamp maire/maire tawake (Syzygium maire), supported by Plant & Food Research.
  • Cryopreservation conservation of Bartlett's rata/rata moehau (Metrosideros bartlettii), with Otari Native Botanic Garden, Te Papa and Auckland University.
  • Seed characteristics and storage for ramarama (Lophomyrtus bullata) and New Zealand myrtle/rohutu (Lophomyrtus obcordata).

Completed research projects

  • Potential losses to biodiversity and ecosystem values under low-, medium-, and high-impact disease outbreak scenarios (Lincoln University).
  • Potential economic impact of myrtle rust on industry sectors on mainland New Zealand (New Zealand Institute of Economic Research).
  • Climate model of the potential risk of myrtle rust spreading from Australia and Raoul Island, and around New Zealand (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, and Plant & Food Research).
  • Development of a rapid field monitoring tool that has been used in the myrtle rust response on mainland New Zealand (MPI Plant Health and Environment Laboratory and the Food and Environment Agency UK).
  • Predicting the climatic risk of myrtle rust during its first year in New Zealand – NZ Plant Protection journal article

Risk of bees spreading myrtle rust

Plant & Food Research showed that myrtle rust spores can survive for some time in beehives. However, more research is needed to understand any potential risk of bees spreading myrtle rust.

There was not enough evidence to justify widespread restrictions on the movement of beehives. This would have significant financial impacts on beekeepers, the honey industry and primary industries that rely on bee pollination.

Who to contact

If you have questions about myrtle rust, email info@mpi.govt.nz 

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