25 Feb 2014

Kiwifruit-killing fungus rampant in Brazil

1:45 pm on 25 February 2014

The kiwifruit industry is considering an experiment that would expose kiwifruit vines to a New Zealand fungus in a containment facility to see what impact it has.

Kiwifruit vines

Photo: PHOTO NZ

Industry representatives have travelled to Brazil to investigate a similar fungus that's decimating vines in the south of that country. Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive Barry O'Neil, who was on the trip, says vines there are dying within three days of showing signs of infection from ceratocystis fimbriat.

"It's a fungus that is quite common around the world," he says, "and one of our concerns was a form of this fungus exists in New Zealand, causing black spot in kumara, and it's been here for many years."

The New Zealand representatives wanted to identify whether or not the fungus killing the vines in Brazil is the same as the New Zealand fungus, and what's being done to try to counter it.

Some orchards in Brazil have lost up to half their vines, and no successful way to control the disease has been found.

"It kills the complete vine, and it kills it very quickly - within three days the vine has gone from a healthy vine to a totally collapsed vine," Dr O'Neil says.

He says the industry will continue looking at the genome of the Brazilian fungus to see how similar it is to New Zealand's strain. A full literature review is being commissioned and the industry is also considering sending a scientist from Plant and Food Research to Brazil to work with scientists there.