Chile responds to challenge of PSA

Reports that the kiwifruit vine bacteria Psa has spread in Chile are true, but any inference that Psa is out of control are well wide of the mark, according to Carlos Cruzat, manager of the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee (CKC).

“Certainly, it is a serious phytosanitary event,” said Cruzat. “We cannot and would not deny that Psa has spread in Chile, but at this moment, only 30 orchards in the country are Psa positive and 28 of them are in the same region, Maule, which accounts for 45% of Chile’s kiwifruit production. It is a difficult bacteria to contain, but at this point, we feel we working in the right way to keep it under control.”

Chile’s public and private sectors are collaborating to ensure that the spread of Psa is curtailed. “We have had an action plan in place since 2010,” said Cruzat. “Two years ago, we found the first incidence of Psa in a Chilean orchard and immediately the government created a resolution to implement measures designed to contain the bacteria.

In 2011, a further 5 Psa positive orchards were identified and this year, the number has risen to 30. “This level of increase was to be expected; it is not dramatic,” Cruzat said. “The issue is that the spread is mainly in a zone where there is a lot of production, so more work needs to be done on the part of the government and growers to contain it.”

“Psa an extremely aggressive bacteria, but it is important to understand that it does not affect the quality of the fruit we export, nor does it present any risk to the health of consumers. It is a canker that affects kiwifruit vines and a lot of our focus has therefore been on cutting its impact off at source.

“Prevention plays a fundamental role in this country-¬‐wide strategy because it is key to stopping Psa from spreading,” he added.

All of Chile’s kiwifruit nurseries are therefore being inspected regularly and any nursery that has been infected by Psa is ordered to destroy all genetic materials and plants immediately.

However, as well as arriving in orchards from propagated materials, Psa bacteria can be transmitted in a variety of ways. Chile’s Agricultural Health Authority and the CKC have worked hand in hand to facilitate a flow of educational information through every sector of the industry. “Every orchard, whether affected by the virus or otherwise, has been given government advice and guidance, as well as assistance from the CKC,” said Cruzat. “As an industry, we have rolled out an education programme across every sector of the kiwifruit industry to build awareness of the impact of Psa and the ways we can control it.”

Information sharing seminars have been held in growing regions and the CKC has also provided online support for growers and exporters, detailing the ways Psa manifests itself, the problems it can create and perhaps most importantly, outlining a phytosanitary programme designed specifically to control the spread of the bacteria.

“It’s extremely aggressive and we are being equally aggressive in the methods we are using to minimise the impact it has on Chile’s orchards,” Cruzat said. “Noone should underestimate how seriously we have taken this issue in Chile – we know we cannot eradicate the problem overnight, but we will continue our work until the fight against PSA has been won.”

For more information:
Christian Carvajal M.
Tel: +56 2 472 47 34
Fax : +56 2 206 41 63

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