Gardeners and horticulture growers across the State have been urged to check plants for signs of blueberry rust, after laboratory analysis confirmed a detection of the serious fungal disease in a nursery near Perth.
Blueberry rust, which has not been detected in Western Australia before but is found in the eastern states, is a notifiable disease that impacts blueberry fruit production by causing reduced vigour, premature leaf loss and reduced yield.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is working with the nursery and horticulture industries to contain the disease, which is spread by tiny spores.
The department is undertaking tracing and delimiting surveillance to determine the spread of the disease, which will be supported by monitoring and reporting by industry and the public.
DPIRD Chief Plant Biosecurity Officer Sonya Broughton urged gardeners and growers to inspect plants regularly for disease symptoms and to report any suspect observations to the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service or via the MyPestGuide Reporter app.
“Symptoms are most noticeable on the underside of leaves, where yellow pustules can appear, which release thousands of yellow spores that can infect other leaves and spread the disease,” she said.
“Also look for small reddish spots on the upper surfaces of young leaves, which can darken with age and often surrounded by a yellow halo.
“Disease pustules may also appear on fruit later in the season.”
Blueberry rust can be managed using permitted fungicides or by planting tolerant varieties.
Good on-farm and garden hygiene is also imperative to prevent the disease from spreading, including using clean garden tools, washing shoes and clothing and limiting the movement of vehicles and garden implements near plants.
Dr Broughton encouraged growers and gardeners to employ a ‘come clean, go clean’ approach to crop and garden management.
“It is important not disturb or move the plant, while care should be taken to ensure that any clothes or equipment do not become contaminated,” she said.
“If you suspect blueberry rust is present in your plants you must report it immediately, as it is a notifiable disease.”
The DPIRD website has detailed information on disease symptoms, onfarm hygiene measures and monitoring and reporting measures.
Megan Broad/Katrina Bowers, media liaison
+61 (0)8 9368 3937