A deadly disease estimated to have killed one million olive trees in Italy has spread to France.
The French Ministry of Agriculture has announced the discovery of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, known as olive leprosy, on two trees in the south of the country and said the infected trees will be destroyed to prevent propagation.
Ministry officials said the two decorative olives had the same subspecies of the disease that killed about 1 million valuable olive trees in Italy. All trees and plants vulnerable to bacteria within five kilometers must be destroyed and burned.
There is no known cure or prevention for the disease, which blocks the ability of the plant or trees to absorb water. Michel Dessus, chairman of the Alps-Maritime Chamber of Agriculture, where the two infected trees were discovered, said further testing is needed before the vegetation strips are destroyed. "You have to think about cutting down trees over a hundred years old," he told French television.
The disease, also called the fast-decline olive syndrome, which scientists believe affects more than 350 plant species, also hit vineyards in North and South America. It was first detected in Europe in October when 2013, when ancient olive trees in Puglia, Italy, began to die. Whole olive groves of over 230.000 hectares have been felled.
Although it has been found in other plants in France and the French Mediterranean island, Corsica, it is the first time the disease has hit French olive trees that, like those in Italy, are hit by a subspecies of the bacterium called Pauca.
In July of 2016, there was an isolated infestation on an oleander plant in a commercial nursery in Saxony, but the disease was declared eradicated after the plant and the people around it were destroyed.
The disease is transmitted by insects that feed on plant sap. It can also affect fruit trees including peaches, pears, plums and walnuts.
The European Plant Protection Organization has declared Xylella fastidiosa a "very serious threat to the European region". Its effects are worse during hot and dry periods in summer, when there is already a lack of water. Scientists believe the colder weather in northern Europe prevents the disease.
The EU has funded two major research projects on how to fight the disease, which the European Commission describes as “one of the most dangerous plant bacteria” in the world, “causing a variety of diseases, with huge economic impact on agriculture, public gardens and the environment. environment ".
He wrote: “Transmission of the disease in the EU occurs through cicada vector insects that are common throughout the union territory. As a consequence, the risk of this pest spreading to other parts of the EU is very high unless strict control measures are taken immediately upon detection of a new outbreak. "
He advised members of the public not to bring plants back from certain infected areas of the EU and elsewhere “unless accompanied by a plant or plant passport”.