A Chinderah tea-tree farm is still a biosecurity risk one year on.
A Chinderah tea-tree farm is still a biosecurity risk one year on. John Gass /TWE300112bio

Farm faces permanent bio-hazard

THE dreaded spectre of Myrtle Rust - which Pat and Paul Bolster describe as "the herpes of Australian plant life" - will forever hover over the Bolster's 106 hectare tea-tree plantation at Chinderah.

Myrtle Rust is a newly described fungus that is closely related to the Eucalyptus/Guava rusts.

These rusts are serious pathogens which affect plants belonging to the family Myrtaceae including Australian natives like bottle brush, tea-tree and eucalypts.

Myrtle Rust was first detected in Australia on the central coast of NSW in April 2010, yet by December of that year the Myrtle Rust National Management Group agreed that it was not technically feasible to eradicate this disease.

The disease is now present along the eastern seaboard of NSW, south-east Queensland and as far south as the Mornington Peninsula.

There are quarantine restrictions in place to minimise the chance of the disease spreading.

The Bolsters were quick off the mark is doing their utmost to fight the disease if it appeared on their property and implemented biosecurity measures in January last year.

Unfortunately Myrtle Rust was subsequently detected in parts of the plantation but further infestation has been kept in check.

To deter people from wandering onto the property and inadvertently making contact with the disease and contributing to its spread, the Bolster's erected a "Biosecurity Control in Place" sign outside the property.

"Unfortunately it will be standing there permanently because Myrtle Rust will be with us forever," Mrs Bolster said.

Mr and Mrs Bolster are now fervently watching for a spread of Myrtle Rust because the tea-trees are currently at their most susceptible to attack following the recent harvest.

"This weather at the moment is most conducive in aiding the spread of the disease," Mrs Bolster said.

"Low lying water under the trees plus the recent heavy humidity are perfect conditions for Myrtle Rust to thrive.

"Paul and I are keeping our fingers crossed that our security measures will prevent its spread."

Myrtle Rust is distinctive in that it produces masses of powdery bright yellow or orange-yellow spores on infected plant parts.

It infects leaves of susceptible plants producing spore-filled lesions on young actively growing leaves, shoots, flower buds and fruits.

Leaves may become buckled or twisted and may die as a result of infection.



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