Project Leader, Organisation

Mick Blake, Box Hill TAFE (https://www.boxhill.edu.au/course/science-biosecurity/biosecurity/)

Status

ACTIVE

Background

Box Hill Institute runs masterclasses on a variety of topics aimed at community and business engagement and training. Masterclasses are streamed for remote participation and an edited version is made publicly available on the BHI website. The 2017 QFF masterclass attracted over 100 regional businesses and was widely streamed.

The Myrtle rust masterclass aims to build awareness of the disease that is widespread along Australia’s east coast and marginally naturalised in urban Victoria. Whilst no detection exists to date in native vegetation in Victoria, despite the climatic suitability for the disease development, the threats to Victoria’s flora exists.

Objectives and impact

The low detection of the Myrtle rust in climatic suitable native ecosystems in Victoria could be related to low surveillance activities in these areas or the presence of a temporary buffer zone. Ongoing on-ground monitoring surveys are critical in providing consistent data for local governments to make informed decision for better management and containment of the disease. Successful continuous surveillance will be enhanced through partnership with industry, councils, NGOs and scientist citizens. A common understanding of the disease life cycle, adequate training for symptoms recognition, and suitable reporting mechanism will further support disease reporting.

For non-experts, the presence of yellow pustules on leaves is easily identified as a life stage of the pathogen. However, residual evidence of the infection may be present in the form of varying levels of defoliation, shoots death, and even death of the plant (depends on the plant species) which make them hard to attribute explicitly to Myrtle rust. The objective of the Masterclass is to have an interactive forum for community and industry to hear from leading scientists in Myrtle rust, to share their experiences and knowledge of symptoms and signs, how to record disease attributes, and the proper handling of disease occurrences.