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Don’t start a cluster!



‘Cluster’ just might be 2020’s word-of-the-year. In the past six months, we’ve watched and learnt as a deadly virus has spread through countries, communities, and families. As a result, we’ve also learnt the value of mitigating spread through quarantine and isolation


However, this concept isn’t new to everyone – anyone whose business has been affected by a biosecurity problem will be familiar with the importance and complexities of containment efforts.


In our plant-based industries, we’ve learnt to identify and contain many different biosecurity problems over the past few years – fruit flies, myrtle rust, kauri dieback and others. Each of these represents an obvious risk to our environment, and a latent risk to the industry and individual businesses.

Just as with Covid clusters, every business growing, storing, and distributing plants carries some risk of spreading biosecurity hazards into different locations through the community.


This isn’t going to help a plant grower’s reputation – getting a cluster named after your business would undo years of hard graft and grafting, and being the landscaper who planted them wouldn’t be good for business either.

But the costs could go much wider than any single business – they could risk bringing the entire plant growing and landscaping industries into disrepute.


Many biosecurity hazards can cross-contaminate different plant species and even families. This means pests spread on ornamental plants can also get into commercial crops, with implications for horticulture, employment, and exports.



At NZ Plant Producers, we saw this threat in May 2017 when myrtle rust was first detected in New Zealand. As you’re likely aware, this fungal disease attacks Myrtaceae species, and this diverse family includes ornamentals, timber species, commercial crops (including feijoa), and many native species, including manuka, pohutukawa, and rata.

Understandably, when myrtle rust was discovered here, this meant there was a lot at stake and a lot of resources were invested in preventing its spread.


Not surprisingly, there was also loud calls for harsh measures. We quickly saw that some of the proposed reactions would have closed nurseries and businesses that relied on them.


By working with government agencies, NZ Plant Producers was able to establish myrtle rust protocols to help plant businesses identify and reduce the risk of carrying and spreading myrtle rust to clients and their neighbours – without unnecessarily closing businesses.


The myrtle rust protocols are a good example of the industry taking the initiative. Everyone in the plant supply chain has a role to protect each other.


Biosecurity is a major part of our role at NZ Plant Producers, with a dedicated Biosecurity and Technical Manager. We are regularly working with government agencies to ensure our biosecurity protections are effective, while letting nurseries and plant businesses thrive.




NZ Plant Producers biosecurity work benefits the landscaping industry and is funded entirely by our member businesses. To support our work, you can join as an Industry Partner.


For more information go to www.nzppi.co.nz

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