Kiwifruit canker found

By Rodney Woods

A Bunbartha kiwifruit orchard has been hit with an aggressive case of Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae, or PSA, but despite this there is no risk to the fruit being grown.

The bacterial canker was detected in Victoria in 2011 in a more mild form but on this occasion New Zealand company Seeka, which owns the Goulburn Valley orchard, is facing the PSA 2 or 3 strain — the first time this has occurred in Australia.

‘‘They suspected a detection a fortnight ago and it was confirmed a few days ago that it was PSA 2 or 3,’’ Victoria’s chief plant health officer Rosa Crnov said.

‘‘It’s a more aggressive form than in 2011 and Victoria have had a number of the mild form — number 4.

‘‘They all have similar symptoms, the more aggressive ones are more pronounced.

‘‘If I was a grower, I’d be looking at my leaves on my vine and if they get these dark spots on the leaves I’d think that’s a bit odd.’’

Dr Crnov said spring was the time growers would most likely notice PSA.

‘‘Spring is a perfect time for it.

‘‘Other times of the year, you are not likely to see it. It can be present and you don’t see symptoms.’’

Despite the infected crop being a non-producing part of the orchard, Dr Crnov said even if it was, fruit would not be affected.

‘‘It’s not a food safety issue, it’s not a human health issue, it’s a biosecurity issue that impacts on the grower,’’ she said.

‘‘In terms of horticulture and agriculture crops it can only affect kiwifruit.’’

With this form of the disease previously putting pressure on New Zealand growers, the home of the kiwifruit now has a variety that is tolerant to more aggressive strains of PSA.

Agriculture Victoria is working closely with NZ authorities and the affected business and is following standard biosecurity processes in response to this detection.