There are 20 deadly pests banging the doors of Europe like battering rams. Your entry is imminent. “People are not aware of the threat. There is an absolute unconsciousness, ”alerts the agronomist Emilio Rodríguez Cerezo. The European Commission published three weeks ago the list of these 20 priority pests. They are enemies of plants like the fearsome yellow dragon —Provoked by a bacterium of Asian origin that has swept 72% of the production of oranges for juice in the US in the last decade – and the Asian long-beetle beetle, which could destroy 5% of the trees of species such as ash, beech and birch trees, according to the Commission. Only one of the bacteria, the Xylella fastidiosa, puts about 300,000 jobs at risk, according to the EU.
“There is a lot of talk about the agricultural impact, but there is also a very important social and cultural impact,” says Rodríguez, of the Joint Research Center, the internal scientific service of the Commission, based in Seville. Your team has developed a new methodology to calculate the possible damage caused by these pests, including for the first time less tangible dimensions, such as landscape, cultural heritage and designations of origin. The yellow dragon, Rodríguez warns, could also destroy the emblematic orange trees of the Alhambra in Granada.
“People are not aware of the threat. There is an absolute unconsciousness ”, alerts the agronomist Emilio Rodríguez
Scientists from the European Commission have identified 10 Spanish places declared World Heritage by UNESCO and with plants threatened by any of the 20 priority pests. The bacteria Xylella fastidiosa, baptized "the ebola of the olive trees" in the press, and the yellow dragon itself, both without treatment, are the most disturbing. Its shadow plans on the landscapes of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela and on the orange courtyards of the cathedral of Seville and the mosque of Cordoba. And the apple worm (Rhagoletis pomonella) could also affect the environment of the Monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla, in La Rioja, as detailed by agronomist Berta Sánchez, co-author of the new methodology.
"The economic, environmental and social impact of these pests in the EU territory is of the utmost seriousness," warns the Commission, which has also worked with the European Food Safety Authority. Member states should shield European borders to these 20 pests, have eradication plans prepared and launch information campaigns for citizens. The so-called “Ebola de los Olivos”, as Rodríguez recalls, has already been introduced several times in Europe on the back of ornamental coffee plants from Costa Rica. “With globalization, it is almost impossible to stop this. The scenario we contemplate is that the pests will enter, but we must try to delay that moment as long as possible, ”explains the agronomist.
The beetle Aromia bungii, a pest harmful to fruit trees in China, was detected for the first time in Spain In July 2018, in the Galician town of Caldelas de Tui. The oriental fruit fly, native to tropical Asia and pernicious to citrus fruits, it stretches across Africa and was first observed in Europe at the end of 2018, in southern Italy. He pine wood nematode It has caused recent outbreaks in As Neves (Pontevedra) and Lagunilla (Salamanca). The fake apple moth, originally from Ethiopia, was located in Holland in 2009. And the black citrus stain, caused by a fungus typical of subtropical regions, has already appeared in Tunisia and can make the leap to Europe at any time.
Other priority pests are the chili barrenillo, which destroys peppers in America, and the Asian long-beetle beetle, which has devastated urban forests in the United States since it first appeared in New York in 1996. The birch beetle, the emerald borer of ash, cherry weevil and the Mexican fruit fly produces chills to the specialists of the European Commission. He too long-horned horn, an Asian plague considered "a serious threat" to citrus in Mediterranean countries, according to the Andalusian Board.
Only the Asian long-beetle beetle could cause losses of 50,000 million euros
He potato and tomato psyllid It wreaks havoc in America. The peach fly It extends from India through South Asia and Africa. The siberian moth devastates thousands of hectares of conifers in the Asian steppes. He japanese beetle ruins ornamental plants in the US And the corn bud worm, of American origin, has spread throughout Africa since 2016. “There are about 400 quarantine pests identified in Europe. These are only the 20 worst ”, summarizes Rodríguez. The economic impact of these pests is huge. The European Commission estimates that only one plague, that of the Asian long-beetle beetle, would cause losses of 50,000 million euros for the forestry sector if it is installed in Europe.
The engineer Berta Sánchez stresses that many certified agricultural products are threatened by these 20 priority pests. In Spain, the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa on its own it could affect denominations of origin or protected geographical indications such as Valencian Citrus, Clementines of the Lands of the Ebro, Mallorcan Almond, Olive of Majorca, Raisins of Malaga, Cherry of the Jerte, Cherries of the Mountain of Alicante, Bagged table grape of the Vinalopó and Aloreña Olive of Malaga, according to Sánchez's data. Some 300,000 jobs would be in danger in Europe because of this microbe, the Commission estimates.
"We are worried that there will be no effective phytosanitary against many of these pests," warns Emilio Rodriguez. The EU itself presumes that its pesticide laws are “The strictest in the world”. The European authorities began in 1991 to reexamine the active ingredients of the pesticides used in the continent and since then they have approved about 400 and have banned twice. The main grouping of European farmers, Copa-Cogeca, fears a catastrophe due to lack of pesticides. “There is a rejection of phytosanitary products and also the eradication measures, which are very painful. But if a tree is not uprooted, in the end all of them will have to be uprooted, ”Rodríguez warns.
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