Chestnut blight strikes Victoria

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 21st December 2010

Chestnut blight, an exotic plant disease affecting chestnut and oak trees, has struck the Ovens Valley in North-Eastern Victoria, where 80% of Australia’s chestnuts are grown.

The disease was first detected in September 2010, and the Chestnut blight National Management Group (NMG) met on 25 November 2010 to discuss the outbreak and agree to a national plan to eradicate the disease.

The disease is caused by a bark-inhabiting fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica), which mostly affects the trunk and branches of its host, eventually causing it to die.

Since September, over 145,000 chestnut trees and a selection of oaks have been surveyed in Victoria. There are currently nine infected properties, all in the Ovens Valley.  A Quarantine Zone has been proclaimed for north-east Victoria and movement restrictions for chestnut and oak plant material and equipment used to farm chestnuts are in place.

The Victorian Department of Primary Industries (VIC DPI) is in the process of removing and burning infected and at-risk chestnut trees.

It is not known how Chestnut blight entered Australia.

As a precautionary measure, other Australian states and territories that grow chestnuts have undertaken surveillance activities that have demonstrated that chestnut blight is not present elsewhere.

Advice to the NMG from the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests (CCEPP) suggests that the blight can be eradicated in Australia, due to its containment in a small geographical area, careful tracing of plant stock and fungal spores which are estimated to travel less than 100 metres.

The response is being implemented under the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD) – a legally binding agreement between the Australian Government, all state and territory governments, national plant industry body signatories and Plant Health Australia.