Beyond Myrtle Rust
Beyond Myrtle Rust (BMR) is a collaborative, multi-faceted research programme that aims to study the behaviour, ecology and impacts of the disease myrtle rust (MR) in New Zealand.
Supported by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, the programme will run from 2018-2023 and involves researchers and iwi from across Aotearoa. The programme also draws on expertise in Australia.
About myrtle rust
The fungus which causes myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) arrived in New Zealand on wind currents in 2017. To date, it has been recorded infecting many ecologically, culturally and economically important species in the Myrtaceae family, such as pōhutukawa and mānuka.
Myrtle rust strikes plants at all life stages, causing dieback and potentially death.
New plant growth is particularly vulnerable to infection, and the disease is therefore most visible during spring and summer, when plants typically produce the most new tissue.
Austropuccinia psidii has spread rapidly around the world over the past 40 years and has had disastrous effects in some environments. In Australia, it has pushed at least four tree species to the brink of extinction.
Eradication of myrtle rust has never been achieved but it is vital we try to increase ecosystem resilience to the fungus and help local communities protect our taonga trees.
The Beyond Myrtle Rust research programme has four interlinking research areas: Pathogen Dynamics; Ecosystem Impacts; Novel Mitigation Techniques; Kaitiakitanga & Māori-Led Solutions.
Images: Peter de Lange (Unitec), Roanne Sutherland (Scion), and Eric McKenzie (Manaaki Whenua)
Key Goal: Improve understanding of Austropuccinia psidii reproduction in New Zealand
Key Goal: Investigate broad-scale impacts of Austropuccinia psidii on ecosystem functions
Key Goal: Investigate natural plant and communityresistance to myrtle rust
Key Goals: Build capacity and develop strategies to facilitate Māori leadership around myrtle rust management
We have a narrow window of opportunity to learn and predict how myrtle rust will affect trees in New Zealand, because it behaves differently in different ecosystems.