22 Aug 2012

Nelson apple growers fight fungal disease

6:45 am on 22 August 2012

Apple growers in the Nelson region are fighting to control a fungal disease that they say has the potential to be as destructive as the PSA vine canker in kiwifruit.

The tree-killing disease European canker - caused by the fungus Nectria gallegina - has been found in the wetter parts of Nelson and western parts of the North Island for many years.

But a run of wetter than normal seasons has sent infection rates skyrocketing in Nelson, especially in the Riwaka area.

It has hit newer apple varieties such as Jazz and Envy, as well as new Royal Gala strains. Dwarf trees planted by some growers have also suffered heavy damage.

The Motueka Fruitgrowers Association chairperson, Simon Easton, says growers have had to cut out thousands of trees and take other aggressive control measures.

Mr Easton says some growers are hoping that drier conditions last autumn slowed down the spread of the canker, but they won't know until spring, when new leaf growth appears.