A deadly disease for olive trees which has killed a million olive trees in Italy has spread to France.
An announcement by the French agriculture ministry broke the news of the bacterium’s discovery in two trees in the south of the country. It was stressed that the infected trees would be destroyed to stop it from spreading.
Italy suffered the loss of an estimated 1 million valuable ancient olive trees, with all trees and plants vulnerable to the disease within a three-mile-radius destroyed and burned.
Further compounding the issue is that there is no treatment, cure or preventative measures for the disease, which blocks olive trees’ ability to take up water.
The president of the chamber of agriculture in the Alpes-Maritimes was quoted where he called for further tests to be carried out before large areas of vegetation are destroyed. He said that it the decision of cutting down trees that are over 100 years old needs to be properly thought out.
The disease has also hit vineyards in north and south America, however it was first detected in Europe back in October 2013 when ancient olive trees in Puglia, Italy, began to die. Entire olive groves of more than 230,000 hectares have been cut down.
It is spread by insects feeding on the sap of the plants. It can also affect fruit trees including peaches, pear and plums and nuts.
Concerns were initially raised in Malta back in 2015, with environmental authorities releasing statements about ongoing efforts to monitor local olive trees. While olive oil production is nowhere near as large in scale as Malta’s Mediterranean neighbours, it remains an important activity for sections of local farmers while renewed interest has been shown by the establishment of olive mills.
In 2018, a legal notice was issued by Malta’s government, in accordance with an EU directive, to outline steps which should be taken for the protection of olive trees and other vegetation from the bacteria.
The disease does not appear to have spread to Malta, with questions sent to the Environment Ministry and the Environment and Resources Authority remaining unanswered at the time of writing.