A picture of a branch affected by the disease myrtle rust

Whats the Fuss About Myrtle Rust?

The latest plant biosecurity news is summarised in the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre’s (PBCRC)  The Leaflet. The latest edition was packed full of information on the disease called myrtle rust (Puccinia psidii). Read on to find out what really is the fuss behind myrtle rust.

A picture of a branch affected by the disease myrtle rust

Suspect myrtle rust symptoms should be reported to the Pest and Disease Information Service (Emergency Plant Pest Hotline) on 1800 084 881 or email info@agric.wa.gov.au.

The Australian Myrtaceae family of plants, including eucalypts, tea tree and paperbark, and associated plant industries are under threat from a devastating disease called myrtle rust (Puccinia psidii). Myrtle rust was introduced in 2010 and was detected for the first time in Australia on the central coast of New South Wales. With the wind-borne nature of the disease and the abundance of suitable plant hosts in the Australian environment, the disease spread rapidly and is now considered established and widespread along the entire east coast of Australia. The disease is very effective at spreading  making it a threat to the health of Western Australian native species.

What is Myrtle rust?

Dr Geoff Pegg from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is the PBCRC myrtle rust expert,  in the following video he provides some interesting insights into this devastating disease and the research that is building knowledge to help affected industries.

Myrtle rust threatens Australian Industry-

The latest edition of The Leaflet outlined three main industries effected by Myrtle rust.

  1. The $800 million production nursery industry is an important part of the Australian economy and is vital for supporting a range of other industries such as fruit and vegetables. Myrtle rust has already damaged the nursery and garden industry significantly, with immediate restrictions on interstate trade following detection and the removal of popular commercial varieties of plants that are highly susceptible to the disease. Some states still maintain trade restrictions from areas where the disease is present.
  2. The forest industry contributes over $20 billion of economic turnover each year and employs over 70,000 people (ABARES, 2014). While initially considered a significant risk to the forestry industry, impacts to date have fortunately been minimal with reports of the disease restricted to minor damage in young eucalypt plantations in New South Wales (Carnegie, 2015) and Queensland (Pegg, unpublished).
  3. The developing lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) industry has been one of the hardest hit by the disease. Lemon myrtle leaves contain oil with the highest citral content of any known plant in the world – citral is the lemony aroma compound used for its citrus effect. The leaves are dried and milled for use in teas or as a spice and steam distillation is used to extract the essential oil from the leaf material, which can then be used as food flavouring, in aromatherapy products, cosmetics and toiletries. In 2012, production of lemon myrtle was estimated to be between 575 and 1,100 tonnes of leaf and 3 to 8 tonnes of oil, with a farm gate value of between $7 and $23 million.

Overview of the lemon myrtle industry

Lemon myrtle leaves contain the highest amount of citral, more than 90 per cent, of any plant in the world- it has been described as ‘lemonier than lemon’!

The leaves are dried and milled for use in teas or as a spice. Steam distillation is used to extract the essential oil from the leaf material which can then be used as food flavouring, in aromatherapy products, cosmetics and toiletries.

In 2012, production of lemon myrtle was estimated to be between 575 and 1,100 tonnes of leaf, and three to eight tonnes of oil, with a farm gate value of between $7 and $23 million.

So how do we manage it?

The Australian lemon myrtle industry have been loosing out since the introduction of the disease in 2010. The Plant Biosecurity CRC are conducting research to help develop management strategies to reduce production losses from affected plants. Myrtle rust leads to to branch defoliation, dieback and stunted growth – yield losses can be to be up to 70 per cent. Production losses can be severe if the disease is left untreated.

Through a PBCRC research project with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF), scientists are investigating how to manage the impact of myrtle rust – a disease that has the potential to cause widespread change in native plant species and impacts on the ecological communities they support. This research is being led by Dr Suzy Perry and Dr Geoff Pegg from QDAF, with significant support from Dr Angus Carnegie (NSW DPI). The research project Managing myrtle rust and its impact in Australia is investigating myrtle rust management options for industry and the impact on native ecosystems. This research hopes to finalise a nationally standardised myrtle rust rating system for a range of myrtaceous species growing under different environmental conditions which will enable affected stakeholders to better manage myrtle rust and its consequences in Australia.

For further information on the project take a look at – Managing myrtle rust and its impact in Australia, Further information: Dr Geoff Pegg, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Participants: NSW Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

A poster warning New Zealand residents to keep a look out for myrtle rust

Even New Zealand residents are asked to keep a look out for the disease.

Keeping myrtle rust out of Western Australia-

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) gives these tips for managing the biosecurity risk of myrtle rust-

Bush walkers and home gardeners are likely to be the first people to find myrtle rust if it enters WA. Naturalists are invaluable as “eyes on the ground” but are also those most likely to inadvertently bring this disease into WA.

Wind disperses myrtle rust spores but wind alone is unlikely to carry them across the desert which separates WA from the eastern states. However, the tiny spores are highly transportable and can stick to clothing, hats, footwear, vehicles and equipment. Consequently anyone who visits NSW, Victoria or Queensland and then returns to WA should take the following precautions:

  • If travelling by road, shake out floor mats, wash down tyres and check that the vehicle, caravan, trailer and any gardening equipment contain no plant material. Do this before leaving NSW, Victoria or Queensland and do it again before crossing the border back into Western Australia. The reason for performing the first clean-up is that if any spores are accidentally transported even a short distance into other states they could allow myrtle rust to become established further westward and, consequently, begin the spread of the disease towards WA.
  • If possible, change into fresh clothing and footwear before re-entering WA and pack away the attire that was worn in NSW and Queensland. Once home, wash everything that was used on the trip.
  • Rail and domestic airline passengers are reminded that any plant material or items contaminated by soil are prohibited entry into WA. If friends or relatives from eastern Australia are planning to visit WA please pass on this advice.

More information on the DPIRD website about myrtle rust can be found here.

Anyone who finds what they suspect is myrtle rust should ring the Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS) on Freecall: 1800 084 881 to report the location. If possible take a photograph and email it to info@agric.wa.gov.au.

Symptoms can also be reported through the MyPestGuide reporter app or by making an online report.

Do not take a sample to post to the Pest and Disease Information Service, because snipping off a piece of diseased plant could dislodge the spores and accelerate the local spread of myrtle rust.

European House Borer

Blocking Borer

Home remedies can be effective, safe and a cheap way to control pests around the home. Passed down from generation to generation these recipes can be pure gold! This week we have looked at a home remedy for Borer.

This home remedy is from the Ask Sabrina section in the West Weekend.

Borer home remedy-

Myrtle writes- I have a home remedy for treating borer that has worked on a lemon-scented gum tree and a local wattle, based on a treatment I’d read for an insect infestation on a grapefruit tree. I used 40 per cent vegetable oil, 20 percent detergent and the rest water, shaken vigorously in a handheld spray bottle. I squirted the mixture into the borer holes and almost immediately borers staggering out and died, presumably suffocated by the oil. Two years later, the lemon scented gum has no sign of the borers and the little holes have filled in. The wattle still had a few residual, but no sign of infestation.

An articel from teh Ask Sabrina section of the Weekend West paper.

 

Borer successfully attack stressed trees-

Stressed trees are weaker and have less defenses against insect such as borers. Healthy trees will often exude resin or kino to try and fight off the attackers. Telltale signs that a tree has borers include fresh exit holes in the timber, tunnels in the wood, bone dust, crumbling wood, dead beetles, adult beetles, eggs, and wood borer larvae. Borer can even disguise their holes using webbing and frass (secreted excreta of insects). Therefore a great way to treat early signs of borers is to improve the health of your tree. Have a look at the environment in which the tree resides, does it need more water or a tonic?

Common bores include; Pinhole Bores, House Longhorn Beetle, Powder Post Beetle, Common Furniture Beetle and Auger Beetles.

Borer pest to look out for-

The European House Borer (EHB) (Hylotrupes bajulus Linnaeus), is a destructive pest of untreated seasoned coniferous timber, such as pine, fir and spruce (Pinus, Abies, Picea, Araucaria and Pseudotsuga species). EHB can  cause major structural damage to buildings.

In Western Australia EHB has been found in susceptible dead trees, logs and living trees with dead wood (dried out damaged branches or trunks). Roof timbers, wall frames, flooring, architraves, door frames and timber articles such as pine furniture, shipping crates, pallets and transport supporting timber and frames can also be susceptible.

EHB has been detected several times previously in Australia but these infestations were eradicated by fumigation. In 2004 EHB was detected in Western Australia, and since then has been found in 60 Perth suburbs.

 

European House Borer

European House Borer Adult Beetle

European House Borer

Signs of European House Borer activity

 

Think you have an insect pest?

You can report pests online here using the MyPestGuide tool. Reports are quick and easy to do and you can include the exact location of the pest and photos as well. The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, aim to respond to reports in 48hrs.

The MedFly

Fruit fly underdone in homemade recipes-

Fruit fly is a major agricultural pest in Western Australia. Mediterranean fruit fly more commonly known as the Med Fly is a major problem for commercial orchardists and landholders.

Fruit fly attacks a large range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Historically, fruit fly was,  controlled with the use of a pesticide called Fenthion- this was controversially banned in 2015. Fenthion was used to reduce the effect of the Med Fly on WA growers while also providing a tool to prevent the insurgence of the Queesland Fruit Fly (also given a nickname, QFly).

The Qfly lands in Perth-

In late 2015, five Perth Suburbs were quarantined after eight QFly males were caught in surveillance traps. Costing the Department of Agriculture and Food hundreds of thousands of dollars the five affected suburbs were restricted in the movement of fresh fruits and vegetables until the all clear was given. Now Tasmania and South Australia are the only states to have the clear QFly status and the implications for trade with WA is still unknown.

This large output of energy and resources goes to show the seriousness of even a small outbreak of eight flies can be and the effort DAFWA puts into biosecurity to prevent the spread of pests.

Now that Fenthion has been banned in the control of fruit fly there are many different homemade recipes available to help landowners monitor and control fruit fly in their area.

Homemade traps for fruit fly control-

The simple traps below can be made with ingredients and equipment found easily in the home, check out everydayroots.com for more traps ideas.

Don’t forget to use the Pest App from DAFWA to ID any bugs caught!

 

 The Apple Cider Trap- Fruit flies can’t resist the smell of fermentation, and since apple cider vinegar is from fermented apples, it’s a dream drink to them. Heat the vinegar beforehand to release more of its irresistible fragrance.

fruit fly trap made from a paper funnel, jar and apple cider vinegar

This apple cider vinegar trap lure fruit flies in.

 

Equipment-

A mason jar or something similar, a funnel (you can make one yourself), ½ cup of apple cider vinegar, a drop of dish washing soap, and a piece of ripe or overripe fruit (optional).

Heat up the apple cider vinegar and pour into your jar. Add a few drops of dishwashing soap to break up the surface of the liquid and prevent the flies from sitting on the surface. Roll up a piece of paper to make a funnel and place it in the top of the jar, the flies will follow the funnel down but won’t be able to find their way out and will drown. If you find the flies aren’t drowning you can place the whole trap in the freezer for 15-30 minutes until the flies have died.  You can either replicate the trap or continue to use the same one.

 

The Jar Type Trap- Use the fruit flies weakness to lure then in – fermenting fruit

fruit fly trap made from ripe fruit in a jar with plastic wrap with hols poked in.

Everyday kitchen items make a handy fruit fly trap.

Equipment- A glass jar, plastic wrap, a toothpick, some very ripe or overripe produce, and some soapy water.

Put your rotting and/or very ripe fruit in the bottom of a jar. Cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap, secure with a rubber band, and poke holes in the plastic using a toothpick. Put the traps in places fruit flies are congregating and when the trap is full you can submerge in hot soapy water or place in the freezer.

Community responsibility in fruit fly control-

With the new restrictions on pesticides, growers are now at the mercy of good husbandry from landowners in the control of fruit fly. To help reduce fruit fly residents can remove ripening fruit and pick up fallen fruit around trees.

Don’t forget burying ripening fruit does not control fruit fly as the larvae can still emerge from the soil.

For more species or control information on the fruit fly visit the Department of Food and Agriculture website here.

Pantry Blitz- Do you know what bugs you’re living with?

You are invited to take part in an exciting new citizen science activity to uncover the secret lives of the pests living inside your pantry cupboard. Register now for the Pantry Blitz!

Citizen Science- the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.

Participants will place a pest trap inside their pantry cupboard for one month and use the free reporting tool MyPestGuide to submit pest reports for identification. Participants must register to receive a free pest trap in the mail. Traps are placed inside the kitchen pantry then once a week for a month you send in your observations. This is a great activity for the kids (as well as adults) to learn about biosecurity and bugs! Recommended you register early for this fun activity as pest trap numbers are limited.

The data you collect will be used to keep Western Australia free from harmful exotic pests. Your reports can make a difference! When making a report you are in fact also helping to protect your local food producers, the people who manufacturer your food products and those employed to deliver and supply you with good quality foods.  So, partner up with the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA to help protect our food, environment and livelihoods from damaging pests by observing what’s in your household pantry and reporting what you see.

What sort of bugs are you looking for?

Pantry Blitz- Do you know what bugs you're living with?

Pantry Blitz – Watch out for the sweet potato weevil!

Of all the sweet potatoe pests this one is the worst!

The sweet potato weevil Cylas formicarius (Fabricius) causes damage in the field, in storage, and is of quarantine significance. It’s a pretty cool looking bug but can cause up to 97% damage where sweet potatoe is cultivated. Sometimes the first indication they are there is cutting open a sweet potatoe and finding tunnels and larvae. Recently a vigilant member of the community discovered this exotic pest after purchasing a bag of sweet potatoe from a local super market. The weevil was reported to the Department of Agriculture and Food via its biosecurity surveillance tool, MyPestGuide Reporter app (for the full story click here).

Pantry Blitz- Do you know what bugs you're living with?

Pantry Blitz – Keep a look out for the elephant weevil!

Watch the wine!

This cool looking bug  is commonly known as the elephant weevil, Orthorhinus cylindrirostris. In Australia they are considered a major pest to wine companies as it feeds on grape vines. It is a brown grey weevil with a long slender snout and long forelegs. When not at the winery the elephant weevil adults and larvae feed on eucalypts and a variety of other plants.

Register now!

You can make observations and send reports anytime using the ‘MyPestGuide” Reporter mobile app or via the online reporting webpage. Your reports will be received automatically by the MyPestGuide Team. Department of Agriculture and Food department experts will then identify the pests reported from your pantry, respond to each report and publish the community’s findings on the Pantry Blitz webpage. So don’t forget to keep checking to see your bugs on the webpage.