Dangerous Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie – ‘Olive killer’ found for the 1st time in lavender in this region!

xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie

Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie? That’s the question on everyone’s mind in southern France. Until August 2020, this plant pathogen has been unheard of in this region. Unfortunately, the news of this ”olive killer” has been confirmed in lavender by the regional plant protection services of the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie

Caption: Xyllela infected olive trees | Image credits ©Shutterstock

Southern France is known for its vivacious culture, food, wine and its breath-taking views at every corner. The region of Occitanie in particular is famous for its spectacular lavender fields, landscapes and medieval towns. Today, however, the region of Occitanie is making other, more disturbing headlines. The dangerous plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa has been found for the very first time in this region. Without a doubt, Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie can cause severe consequences putting at risk entire ecosystems, the agro-tourism industry, historical landscapes and other plants. This is especially the case for lavender fields and olive trees, which contribute significantly to the region’s cultural heritage and economic prosperity.

For those in the know, Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie means only one thing – disaster ahead! If you haven’t heard of Xylella or you are unaware of its devastating impact, take a look at the top 7 reasons why you should about the threat of Xylella fastidiosa.

Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial plant pathogen which is transmitted by pests such as spittle bugs. These spittle bugs feed off the xylem of the plant. Once they start feeding, they infect the plant and ultimately the flow of water transported in the xylem vessels is blocked. Then the typical symptoms of Xylella infection follow. These include die-back, discolouration of leaves, abscission of leaves and fruit, and many more. Eventually, these symptoms lead to plant death, as there is no cure for Xylella.

 Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie

Until August 2020, the region of Occitanie was Xylella-free. However, a positive lavender sample taken by end of August 2020 confirmed the region’s worst nightmare: the presence of Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie. The outcomes of this routine inspection were confirmed by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food in a statement released on the 4th of September 2020.

Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie

Caption: Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie – infected zone| Image credits ©Préfet de la région Occitanie

The contamination has been identified on a lavender sample (Lavandulax intermedia – grosso variety) at an establishment ”that produces and sells ornamental plants to individuals”, as stated by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Although Xylella doesn’t present any risks to humans, it is a danger to plants and regional biodiversity. An investigation is currently being conducted to trace the origin of the plant pathogen and to understand how it found its way to Occitanie.

Ministry response to Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie

In response to Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food put compulsory measures in place, in compliance with the provisions set forth by the European Regulation (EU) 2020/1201.

As stated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food: ”…immediate precautionary measures were taken, including stopping all marketing of plants from this establishment, while phytosanitary treatment was applied to the entire site. A perimeter of a radius of 2.5 kilometres around the site has been established in order to prevent any spread of the disease by means of surveillance and grubbing up”.

Xylella in France

Caption: Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie – 2.5 km containment zone around Trèbes at 7km from Carcassonne| Image credits ©Préfet de la région Occitanie

Moreover, in order to deal with Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie as quickly as possible, all plants in the infected area will be also uprooted in the coming days.

You can find the full statement from the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food (in French), click here.

Where is Occitanie?

Occitanie is a well-known region in the southern part of France. It is also called Occitània, Occitany or Occitania. It is the second largest region in France, covering approximately 72,724 km2.

where is Occitanie

Caption: Map of France | Image credits ©2020 GeoBasis-DE/BKG Google Maps

How to recognise Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie

In order to recognise Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie and France in general, you will need to familiarise yourself with the top 9 symptoms of Xyllela fastidiosa. Since Xylella was dicovered in a lavender sample, let’s focus on lavender.

In lavender, you can find symptoms such as scorching, die-back as well as leaf discolouration. Take a look at the image below for examples of these symptoms on lavender species. Also, when you investigate your lavender, consider also symptoms from the following: nutrient imbalance, drought, frost, hot temperatures, rot or stem damage.

xylella fastiiosa in Occitanie

Caption: Lavender fields in southern France| Image credits ©Donato Boscia, CNR – Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection, UOS, Bari (IT); ©Dirección General de Agricultura y Ganadería – Govern Balear / Serveis de Millora Agrària – Govern Balear; “diseased” Agnès Poirier, NPPO France ©Teagasc.ie

Are you showcasing any of the above-mentioned symptoms? Let us know in the comments section below!

Xylella fastidiosa in France

Even though Xylella fastidiosa in Occitanie is quite a rare occasion, it is not the first time Xylella has been reported in France. It was first detected in 2015 in the regions of Corsica and Provence-Alpes Côte d´Azur. ”Since the first outbreak in 2015, nearly 50,000 samples have been taken and analyzed, 2.8 per cent of which were positive”, says the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

In Corsica, the Xylella fastidiosa subspecies multiplex has been confirmed on ornamental plants such as lavender, rosemary, polygala myrtifolia, olives and almond trees. Since December 2017, the entire island of Corsica is now considered an infected zone. Eradication of Xylella is considered as no longer possible, until a cure is discovered.

In Provence-Alpes Côte d´Azur, there has been only one isolated outbreak of Xylella fastidiosa subspecies pauca.

xwhat is xylella fastidiosa

Caption: Symptoms of Xylella | Image credits ©AIMERIT SL

Where did Xylella come from?

This is exactly what the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is trying to determine. In essence, it could be that the origin of the infection came from imported plants. Recently, imported decorative or ornamental plants pose the highest risk to Xylella in France.

How does Xylella fastidiosa spread?

Xylella is spread in two ways. First and foremost, Xylella fastidiosa is spread by Xylem-feeding bugs. The infection is then spread through the insect vector. The second way Xyllela is spread is through infected imported plants, as mentioned above. To learn more about how Xylella spreads, click here.

Stay tuned for more information on Xylella fastidiosa and EU efforts in finding a sustainable solution.

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