Research into a devastating illness which kills trees has been put on hold despite the disease’s increasing severity and threat to SA’s iconic landscape, Shadow Environment Minister Michelle Lensink said today.
“Adelaide researchers have been starved of funds from the State Government since 2002, when the self-proclaimed ‘Green’ Labor Government came into office,’’ Ms Lensink said.
“This is despite concern from researchers that the threat of this disease, Mundulla Yellows, is serious and growing.
“Iconic Red Gums and Red Iron Barks in the South East and in the built-up environment around Adelaide are dying out.
“There is evidence of the disease as close to home as the North Adelaide golf course, Athelstone, Old Belair Road, McLaren Vale and the Coonawarra.
“Trees suffering Mundulla Yellow have also been removed from the Norwood Parade.
“Researchers had to quit mapping affected sites when funding was stopped, so the area affected across the state is unknown.
“However, in 2002 it was estimated that it affected up to 25,000 sq km of land in SA. It is also found in Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania.
“Scientists are concerned the severity of Mundulla Yellows is increasing, and its symptoms are more intense.
“I am advised that research at the Waite Institute and the Department of Environment and Heritage stalled when funds dried up.
Scientists believe Mundulla Yellows is contagious; however there is debate over its cause.
One research group in Victoria, funded by the SA Government, suggest climate change is to blame and associate the yellowing to an increase in carbonate in the soil. Local researchers believe an infectious virus-like agent could be the cause.
“There is controversy over the cause of Mundulla Yellows, but there is no doubt the disorder is prevalent and threatening,” Ms Lensink said.
“But while the Rann Government refuses to fund research, these questions remain unanswered and the disease continues to cut a swathe through our iconic eucalypts.”
The Waite researchers received $5000 from the Tatiara Council in the past two years. Funding from the State Government has been minimal and sporadic and ended in 2002.
“Researchers have a laboratory, tests and equipment but no money to proceed.”
* Was first identified by bee keeper Geoff Cotton in the late 1970s in the Mundulla area, in the South-East.
* Affects various native tree species including eucalyptus, melaleuca, acacia and banksia.
* Early symptoms are yellowing of leaves, followed by die-back of shoots and emerging red-brown spots.
* Seed production eventually ceases and the tree dies.
* Affects young and old trees. No tree has been seen to recover.
Professor John Randles, Plant Pathology and Virology, University of Adelaide is also available for interview on 83037353 or email [email protected]