Presented by Jeyaseelan Baskarathevan
Synchytrium endobioticum is a non-mycelial, soilborne fungus that causes potato wart disease. It is an internationally significant quarantine pathogen and a notifiable organism in New Zealand. As the resting spores of this pathogen can remain viable for more than forty years, growers cannot plant any other crops for export purposes in areas that have been infested with potato wart. In New Zealand, this disease was first recorded in a home garden in Invercargill, Southland in 1970. Since then, the fungus has been found several times in home gardens in a few areas of Southland but never in commercial potato farms. When the disease was detected in home gardens, the fungus was eradicated every time. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the industry body and local regional council have established a potato wart public awareness programme. This programme targets home gardeners in areas where potato wart has been found previously to encourage early reporting and to reduce the risk of spreading the pathogen. Around 10 samples per annum have been sent to the laboratory for diagnosis in the past four years and all were found to be negative for potato wart. Potato wart was last found in home gardens in Invercargill in 2012 and the pathogen was eradicated by soil fumigation. Movement control restricting the movement of the soil, plants, and tools from the infested properties was put in place for the following two growing seasons, and indicator potato plants were used to ensure the success of eradication. MPI is conducting an ongoing awareness programme to support early detection should potato wart reoccur in New Zealand.