France: Xylella fastidiosa outbreak in Occitania

The Xylella fastidiosa bacterium has just been detected in Occitania, a French region so far unscathed, on a production and resale site of ornamental plants to private individuals. The contamination was identified on a sample of lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia, "Grosso" variety) during a routine inspection carried out in August 2020 by the regional plant protection services of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Obligatory control measures were immediately put in place. The bacterium is a danger to plants but does not pose any risk to human health.

Immediate precautionary measures have been taken, including the interruption of all commercialization of plants from this establishment, while a phytosanitary treatment is being applied to the entire site. A perimeter within a 2.5 km radius was established around the site in order to prevent, through surveillance and uprooting, any spread of the disease.

A traceability investigation is underway in order to determine the origin of the infection. A series of samples is being taken from all the other plants sensitive to the bacterium and located in the infected area so as to determine the extent of the infection. To this day, 200 additional samples have been taken and sent to the laboratories for testing; the analyses are underway, in particular to determine the subspecies of the bacterium.

In accordance with the provisions of the European regulation (EU) 2020/1201, all the plants sensitive to Xylella fastidiosa and present in the infected area will be removed in the coming days.

The State will accompany the affected companies with the National Agricultural Fund for Mutualization of Health and Environmental Risks.

Detected for the first time in France in 2015, Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterium that can attack more than 200 plant species and is subject to mandatory control under European and national laws. The symptoms of the disease are difficult to recognize and there is no treatment.

Up until now, only two regions presented outbreaks of the disease in France: Corsica (the entire island is considered to be infected) and Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur. Since the first outbreak in 2015, nearly 50,000 samples have been taken and analyzed, 2.8% of which were positive.

All sectors of agricultural production are exposed to a risk of contamination (vineyards, olive orchards, fruit trees of the Prunus genus, citrus fruits, alfalfa, ornamental species…). The bacterium is also a danger for non-cultivated plants that may be of social, environmental and patrimonial interest, such as endemic species.

Source: Ministère de l'Agriculture et de l'Alimentation

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