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Report Spain must raze vegetation to combat
© Pompilid

Report: Spain must raze vegetation to combat ‘olive tree ebola’


The Spanish island of Mallorca could be entirely razed of vegetation under an EU plan to stifle the progression of a deadly bacteria known as ‘ebola of the olive’, farmers in the region have warned.

The bacteria Xylella fastidiosa, which has infected thousands of olive trees in southern Italy, is now progressing across the Balearic Islands with carrier species multiplying, according to a recent assessment by the EU.

In July, it was detected for the first time on the Spanish mainland in almond trees in Alicante, raising fears it could cause devastation in the world’s largest producer of olive oil.

The EU and the Balearic government are now discussing a containment plan which could eradicate all vegetation within a 100-metre radius of infected plants, Spain’s El Confidential newspaper reported.

With infections confirmed at 156 separate points across Mallorca, agricultural groups say the measure could mean the complete destruction of the island’s plant life.

Gonzalo Rodríguez, head of the Camp Mallorquí, said: “If we comply with what Europe is asking us, it would be starting to fell at one end of the island and finishing at the other. I don’t know if eradicating all the plant life is the solution, but I am sure that, in Mallorca, this is impossible to apply.”

The Balearics authorities had won a reprieve from the eradication measure after the bacteria was detected on the islands late last year, arguing that it would be a ‘disaster’ for the local environment.

The bacteria, which can infect some 300 species, was first discovered in a cherry tree in a Mallorca garden centre in October. After tests elsewhere on the Balearic Islands came back positive, the local government declared the entire archipelago an outbreak zone, prohibited the export of live plants and began destroying infected specimens.

However, a June assessment by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) claimed the response had been too limited, and even with the total application of EU measures, eradication will now be ‘very difficult’ to achieve.

Pan European Networks Ltd