Almond and olive tree disease fear amongst Guadalest farmers

FARMERS in Guadalest demanded this week that the Ministry amends its protocol against the ‘Xylellafastidiosa’ bacteria that has been found to have infected almond and olive trees in the area.

XylellaFastidiosais one of the most dangerous plant bacteria worldwide, causing a variety of diseases, with huge economic impact for agriculture.

The current protocol is in line with European Union regulations which dictate a plant found to be infected by Xylellafastidiosa should be eradicated, along with all plants within 100 metres of it, even if they are not infected:

‘Strict eradication measures apply, consisting in a clear cut of all host plants of the specific subspecies of Xylellafastidiosa, irrespective of their health status, in a radius of 100 m around the infected plants.’

The European Union recognises these regulations impact on the local agro-economy:

‘Although these measures impact on the local agro-economy, they are needed in the interest of the Union as whole in order to preserve EU agriculture, as well as public and private gardens.’

XylellaFastidiosa was first found to have infected plants on a plot in Guadalest in early July and a second plot was found to be infected shortly thereafter.

Word of the bacteria has spread and set fear amongst farmers.

Some of the 359 plants susceptible to XylellaFastidosainclude almond, citrus, grape, oak, olive, peach, sycamore and many other common trees and ornamental plants (such as euphorbia, hebe, lavender, rosemary).

The bacterium lives in the water-conducting vessels (xylem) of plants and spreads between plants via xylem-feeding insects such as leafhoppers and spittlebugs.

Xylella was first found in Europe in October 2013, causing disease of olive trees in the Lecce province of Italy. A separate outbreak was discovered in Corsica and mainland France in July 2015 on ornamental plants (Polygala myrtifolia).

Action was taken to control these outbreaks andwithin Europe all imports of susceptible plants must now be accompanied by documentation confirming their origin from a disease-free site.

Infection by Xylella can result in symptoms of leaf scorch, stunted growth, reduction in fruit quality and size and dieback.

A meeting held in Guadalest on Tuesday was attended by dozens of farmers along with the mayor and mayors of neighbouring municipalities.

The meeting was also attended by representatives from the hospitality industry.

The council has thus far been responsible for implementing the protocol – with over seven hectares of almond trees eradicated.

The farmers fear for their crops. They understand the need for the strict eradication measures but are of the opinion that the council is acting too hastily in eradicating fields and fields of trees before properly testing for the bacteria:

‘We do not object to those who devastate the fields if it is what needs to be done but we want to analyse all the options before’, one of the attendees explained to the Spanish press.

Attendees called on the council to ‘analyse the situation well and then make a decision, before moving ahead to eradicate a year’s work with losses valued in thousands of euros.’

The saga continues.