XYLELLA FASTIDIOSA, a bacterium known as ‘ebola for olive trees,’ could be approaching the Spanish mainland.
It has already decimated thousands of trees in Italy in the three years since it was first detected and Alicante Province olive growers have watched with apprehension after cases were confirmed in Mallorca and Ibiza.
The affliction, which is carried from tree to tree by insects, was first located in three cherry trees at a Mallorca garden centre last November, and the regional government recently declared all the Balearic islands to be infected areas.
Eladio Aniorte, president of the Asaja Alicante Agricultural Union did not hide his fears that the bacteria could make the short sea crossing to the province.
“All plagues are a great worry and this one in particular because the consequences would be huge,” Aniorte said.
Most trees show few symptoms until leaves and branches begin to dry up and eradicating the bacteria is extremely difficult. Since prevention is the best strategy, Asaja is in constant touch with the region’s Agriculture department. “The situation would be dramatic if the plague were to extend through the Mediterranean and its ancient olive trees,” Aniorte said. “But possibly we won’t even know until it’s here.”