Forestry in South Africa
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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FABI Articles : Disease Warning – Puccinia psidii

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Disease Warning - Puccinia psidii
The Eucalyptus rust pathogen: Australia in 2010; South Africa next?

Foresters in South Africa have been made conscious about Eucalyptus rust since the 1990's, and the pathogen Puccinia psidii has been feared in Australia ever since it first started causing disease on Eucalyptus in South America in the 1970's. This concern for Australia became a reality early in 2010 when P. psidii was detected in the state of New South Wales. The appearance of the pathogen in that country has been described, amongst other things as an "ecological holocaust". Recently, despite quarantine efforts, the disease had been reported from north Brisbane, rapidly spreading along the east coast of Australia. Native Australian Melaleuca species are especially susceptible and it is already predicted that this genus maybe wiped out completely.

Puccinia psidii 


The appearance of P. psidii in Australia should be of significant concern to forestry companies in South Africa. However, it is not just Eucalyptus species that are threatened. During collaborative studies between the TPCP programme of FABI, Australia and Brazil, tests of native Heteropyxis natalensis in Brazil showed that this South African endemic is one of the most susceptible species tested with P. psidii (Image). Recent studies in Australia showed that Australian species of Eugenia, Metrosideros and Syzygium are also susceptible. In fact, more than 11- plant species in the family Myrtaceae has already been shown to be susceptible to this pathogen.


Puccinia psidii


The rust pathogen, P. psidii, can be spread in wind currents, infected plant material and even on humans (on their clothes etc.). Foresters, botanists and anyone visiting forest areas/parks in Australia, Brazil, Hawaii or other countries where this pathogen occurs are encouraged not to bring any plant material back with them. Upon returning to South Africa it is strongly advised that you wash your clothes and shoes before entering gardens, forests, farms and plantations in South Africa. Forestry companies and conservation agencies should also, as a matter of urgency, implement management strategies and prepare for the imminent arrival of this pathogen in South Africa.


Puccinia psidii