29 Nov 2011

Kiwifruit growers hunker down against disease

6:09 am on 29 November 2011

South Auckland kiwifruit growers hope the lessons learned in Te Puke over the past year will serve them well as they prepare to manage the PSA V disease.

Kiwifruit Vine Health on Monday confirmed the disease is no longer confined to the Bay of Plenty. An orchard in Waiuku, in the Franklin district south of Auckland, has PSA V.

KVH says it is likely that two other orchards that have been tested are also infected. A priority zone has been set up around the orchards.

There are 98 kiwifruit orchards in the Franklin area, which is about 200km by road from Te Puke.

Southern Orchards managing director Craig Lemon says it was always likely the disease would spread, but he had hoped it would be several years away when growers were better equipped to manage it.

"It's all about buying time - the longer we kept the disease out of this region, the more we felt we were at an advantage over the Bay of Plenty, and that what was learnt over time in the Bay of Plenty would put us in a better position if we were disease-free up here."

Mr Lemon says pulling out infected vines immediately does not stop the spread of the disease.

Plant movement behind disease spread

KVH general manager John Burke says the movement of plant materials was the most likely cause of the disease spreading outside the Bay of Plenty.

He says the distance between that region and Waiuku rules out the spread of bacterial spores by rain or wind.

Mr Burke says PSA will probably infect most orchards in the Franklin district.

He says the plant movement probably happened before Psa was discovered in New Zealand a year ago, and that could also be the case for other kiwifruit-growing regions, which is why continual testing is being carried out.

Mr Burke says growers are monitoring their orchards and reporting anything suspicious.

KVH figures show more than 800 kiwifruit orchards have PSA V - more than a quarter of the country's orchards. Most are in the Te Puke priority zone in the Bay of Plenty.