The dreaded kiwifruit vine disease Psa-V has reached Kerikeri, with the first positive test result confirming infection on an orchard there on Wednesday.
Kerikeri Fruitgrowers Association chairman Rick Curtis said yesterday that growers were shocked and still "getting their heads around" the bad news.
The growers, who had just finished pollination for a crop to be harvested in April-May next year, had no choice other than to "get on with it," he said.
Kiwifruit Vine Health has established a "controlled area" around 102 orchards at Kerikeri and will hold a meeting for growers in the Turner Centre at Kerikeri at 2pm on Monday.
While the confirmed infection on a male vine in an Enza Gold orchard at Kerikeri this week ends Northland's long escape from Psa-V, the 40 kiwifruit orchards around Whangarei are still disease-free and their owners are intent on keeping them that way. About 140 kiwifruit orchards in Northland produced about 5 per cent of the national crop and earned $38.5 million last season.
KVH chief executive Barry O'Neil said the disease was likely to have been present but undetected at Kerikeri for six months or more. "It's likely to have been inadvertently introduced into the area through the movement of plant material or infected orchard equipment.
"Spring is when kiwifruit vines break from winter dormancy and Psa-V symptoms are much more visible. The finding in Kerikeri is another reminder that Psa-V could be present, but undetected, in other kiwifruit-growing regions."
About 1340 New Zealand orchards now have Psa-V. About 950 of the infected orchards are at Te Puke, with other infected areas at Tauranga, Opotiki, Whakatane, Katikati, Waihi, Te Awamutu and Coromandel.
Growers in the Kerikeri controlled area are being advised to monitor their orchards, apply a spray to their vines, maintain orchard hygiene and prevent contaminated matter and machinery coming on to their land.
The KVH regional co-ordinator for Whangarei, Alan Worsfold of Maungatapere, said growers around the city would be following a similar monitoring programme, as Psa-V at Kerikeri was now "too close to home".