AT LEAST one million almond trees have been infected with a deadly tree disease.
A devastating report from scientist Eduardo Moralejo estimates that 150,000 Mallorcan almond trees have died in the past decade alone from the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium.
His “conservative projection” is that between 800,000 and 950,000 trees are currently infected with the pathogen. Moralejo was a voice in the wilderness when he first sounded the alarm over Xylella fastidiosa back in 2010.
Today the threat posed by the disease to Mallorca’s agricultural sector is common knowledge.
But while olive farmers rejoiced at the EU’s decision not to cull countless olive trees to stop the spread of the disease, the situation for almond growers is far more precarious.
In his latest report, Moralejo once again turns the tables on conventional wisdom. He claims the disease has been present on Mallorca for two decades and was not brought over from Italy in 2010, as is often thought.
He presented evidence to the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDIA), based on Mallorca, that this strain actually came directly from California.
At present the disease has only been officially identified in 126 almond trees, 50 per cent of the samples taken. Moralejo believes that at least 70 per cent of trees are infected, which translates to a figure above one million.
Perhaps most alarmingly, he warns that the virus could experience a genetic mutation which enables it to transmit easily between almond and olive, vine and fig trees. This would be a “qualitative leap in the spread of the epidemic across the Balearic Islands”, he said.