19 Jun 2012

Kiwifruit body concerned PSA could hit green variety

8:00 am on 19 June 2012

The Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) organisation is concerned the vine-disease PSA could eventually decimate the mainstay green or Hayward kiwifruit variety, as it's already done to its gold counterpart.

It is proposing a new national pest management strategy to control the disease.

There are only two such strategies in place which are for American Foulbrood in bees and Bovine Tuberculosis in cattle and deer.

Green kiwifruit, which makes up three quarters of the national crop, has held up reasonably well against PSA since it was identified in New Zealand in 2010.

Gold vines were quickly infected, however, and are being replaced with a new variety more tolerant of the disease.

KVH chief executive Barry O'Neil says a recent trip to Italy, which has had PSA for 20 years, has reinforced his view of the need to develop a strategy that will provide effective management of the disease for green kiwifruit as well.

He says the bacteria has had a significant impact on green kiwifruit in Italy, unlike in New Zealand.

Mr O'Neil says he saw PSA-infected green kiwifruit orchards that were not being managed effectively.

He says some Italian growers were not cutting out infected material nor applying any crop protectant spray to reduce the inoculum, and the disease was having a significant impact on those green growers.

"My concerns are that if we don't continue to manage PSA effectively in New Zealand, we will see a similar situation play out in New Zealand".

Mr O'Neil says grower meetings are under way to seek feedback on the pest strategy, which would require Government approval.