It is hoped that the care of vineyards will prevent the bacterium spreading. | Archive

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The xylella fastidiosa (olive ebola) bacterium has started to infect vineyards. The environment ministry has confirmed that there are cases but has not said where they are or how many there are. Official confirmation will be given when results are provided by the national laboratory for phytopathogenic bacteria in Valencia. Unofficially, it is said that there are four cases.

The minister, Vicenç Vidal, is due to meet grape producer representatives next week. The bacterium, which has principally affected olive and almond trees, has now crossed to vineyards. There was a case of an infected vine back in March, but this wasn't considered to be especially significant as it was in a disused area and was treated as an isolated case. It is believed that the latest cases are far more significant in that they are in main production areas.

Marga Amat, manager of the Binissalem DO regulator, says that she wasn't aware of the cases but isn't surprised, given that it is known that vines can be susceptible to the bacterium. She stresses the care applied to managing vineyards, which would slow and make more difficult the spread of the bacterium. With some almond trees, by contrast, there isn't the same level of management as they aren't trees used for production and have been abandoned. She adds: "We must think how we can live with xylella, just as they are doing in California."

By the end of July there were 341 confirmed cases of xylella in the Balearics. More than 2,000 samples have been taken since the first confirmed case in Porto Cristo last November. Fourteen different trees and plants which are susceptible have so far been detected.

The environment ministry is at present continuing with its policy of containment but it is awaiting the final report from the European Commission. And this report could insist that the policy changes to one of eradication.