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Zespri Still Hopes Psa Can Be Eradicated

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Zespri Still Hopes Psa Can Be Eradicated

By Mary Longmore of NZPA

Wellington, Nov 13 NZPA - Kiwifruit marketing company Zespri says it would like to see the Government try to completely eradicate the kiwifruit vine-killing disease PSA -- but admits that may not be possible.

"Whether that is technically feasible, not only from the number of orchards but also what method given it's an airborne bacteria, can you actually do it?" manager of corporate and grower services Carol Ward told NZPA this morning.

But she said if anyone could beat it, New Zealand could -- even though other countries had never succeeded.

"Once we understand a little bit more about this, if anyone is able to get on top of this bacteria, then absolutely we believe the New Zealand kiwifruit industry can.

"We're trying to understand what we're facing, have a very pragmatic approach, sensible approach and we've got every confidence the industry will continue to be strong in the future."

Other countries -- Italy, France, Portugal, Japan, Korea and China-- had been unable to eradicate PSA but it had not destroyed their kiwifruit industries, she said.

Biosecurity Minister David Carter said yesterday it was doubtful that New Zealand would be able to completely eradicate the disease, which it is now emerging may have been here for some time and is now threatening to undermine the billion dollar industry.

Just three orchards, all in Te Puke, Bay of Plenty, have confirmed cases of PSA, or Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae, so far -- something which was "encouraging", Mrs Ward said.

"Yes, it is encouraging that at this stage it's not more widespread. If we can keep some parts of the country PSA free, then that's certainly another good outcome."

Another 60 to 70 test results from around the country were expected by Sunday evening, which she hoped would give a clearer picture of how widespread the disease was.

A rapid response team was also doing random samples in the Te Puke region to try to understand how widely dispersed it was.

Until then, Zespri was trying to keep an open mind, she said.

"Eradication would obviously be the preferred approach if it was technically feasible and possible so that we could get rid of PSA within New Zealand."

But, if it was widespread, "then we have to consider; what are the other alternatives?" she said. The next best option would be containment to one region. Failing that, she said, the industry would have to find a way to manage it.

Copper spraying of the two worst-affected orchards had now finished and industry representatives are due to meet tomorrow night to assess the situation.

Meanwhile, growers were being informed through the Zespri website to understand best practice for orchard hygiene and the implication of BSA for bees and pollination.

By yesterday afternoon, six orchards were in quarantine, all in Te Puke and within 10km of each other with updated figures expected this afternoon.

Mr Carter, who is also Minister of Agriculture, said PSA was a very difficult disease to eradicate or to contain because it was an airborne bacterium.

"It's not like a beetle, it can't simply be sprayed because it is something that moves by air, it's also waterborne, it's transmitted, clearly, by equipment and people, etc, so we're dealing with something that is technically going to be very difficult (to eradicate).

"Many of the growers are reporting anecdotally that they have seen the symptoms in other years and if we could confirm that, it does suggest that PSA is a disease that has been there for a long period of time.

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