Manuka myrtle rust

Kiwi beekeepers bolstered by Aussie experience with myrtle rust

Interesting article by Teresa Ramsey about Myrtle Rust on Manuka and Jellybush Plants in Australia and New Zealand

Myrtle Rust – Beekeepers are nervous about the threat to New Zealand’s manuka honey industry. However, they hope to get a lucky break with the deadly fungi, just like their Aussie neighbours.

The Australian honey industry survived a myrtle rust outbreak when it arrived on Australian shores in 2010.

Beekeepers here are also hoping New Zealand’s multimillion-dollar industry will survive unscathed, but admit it could go either way.

Myrtle rust, which has now hit New Zealand shores, is a fungi that attacks members of the myrtaceae plant family such as manuka, kanuka, pohutukawa, rata and feijoa trees.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) response incident controller David Yard said it was unknown how myrtle rust would affect manuka in New Zealand.

“We do not know at the current time how its presence in New Zealand will impact manuka and, correspondingly, the honey industry,” he said.

“In Australia, where myrtle rust is widespread, the fungus has been found to behave differently on different species and even in different locations.”

Apiculture NZ (ApiNZ) Waikato vice president and Coromandel beekeeper John Bassett said a myrtle rust outbreak is a concern.

“If I was one of these beekeepers that in the last couple of years has been planting thousands of acres of manuka in a plantation, then I’d be a bit worried at the moment,” he said.

“We don’t know what it’ll do, but the indications are from my mates in Australia that from a beekeeping perspective, particularly with manuka, it may not be as serious as people think it might be.”

In Australia, an active manuka honey called jellybush is produced from a tea-tree plant that is closely related to New Zealand manuka.

Myrtle rust hadn’t altered the jellybush honey yield since the fungi appeared in Australia, Bassett said.


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