Industry battles threat to Bay vines

Hawke's Bay's kiwifruit industry had been put at risk of another strike form the vine-killing disease Psa-V after a grower moved plant material from the Bay of Plenty to the region earlier this year.

The bacterial disease, which is rampant in the Bay of Plenty and also spread through Waikato, attacks and kills the vines.

While full details were not available the body charged with keeping the Psa-V disease under control in the industry, Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH), is hot on the heels of a grower who moved plant material from a nursery in Tauranga to a nursery in Hawke's Bay in January.

The grower in question is understood to be overseas so no action has been formally taken and any action would be assessed when he was back in the country and had been spoken to.

Moving plants from the infected area into Hawke's Bay was in breach of biosecurity rules.

Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Association kiwifruit chairman Peter Olsen said the incident was "the last thing we need".

"I can not believe anyone in the industry does not understand the risks. This was a crazy thing to do."

The risk from Psa-V had to be in the forefront of their minds, Mr Olsen said.

He added that while region was not entirely free from Psa-V, with two outbreaks affecting the susceptible Hort16A variety having been detected last September, the two spots were effectively containment areas.

A KVH spokesman said the agency was "extremely disappointed" with the grower involved and that bringing in plants from a clearly affected area had put Hawke's Bay kiwifruit growers at risk.

A restricted place notice has been placed on the nursery in Hawke's Bay, meaning nothing can be moved off that site by the grower or his staff.

It was only quick reporting of the incident which had enabled the agency to stop potentially affected plants being taken from the nursery onto Hawke's Bay orchards.

In the wake of last year's discovery of Psa-V in Hawke's Bay KVH chief executive Barry O'Neill said the spread to the region had been disappointing.

Combating the disease was a major challenge for growers, he said, many of whom had grafted their vines to other, more resistant varieties of kiwifruit such as G3.

That move had been encouraged by Zespri as a way of combating Psa-V as Hort16A was much more susceptible.

It was not known how the first two outbreaks were sparked, although one grower suspected it may have travelled here on pruning equipment which had been used in the Bay of Plenty.

Of the latest incident, another grower said moving material into Hawke's Bay from an affected region was purely and simply "irresponsible".

Hawke's Bay growers were more than aware of the threat and since last year had put signs in place wherever kiwifruit vines were being grown that stated clear restrictions were in place.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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