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Spanish pioneer breakthrough technique against palm weevil

palmweevilThe largest palm grove in Europe is a Unesco World Heritage Site which is now being threatened with the notorious red palm weevil.

More than 200,000 date palms are in the grove in Elche, a city lying a few kilometres southwest of Alicante. The Palm Grove is one of the biggest in the world.

The attacking beetle has already caused the death of more than 100,000 palm trees in Spain and is certainly no stranger to Portugal.

Experts now have heightened the fight-back by deploying drones capable of administering ‘vaccines’ to the palms.

Weevil larvae are capable of burrowing as deep as a metre into the trunks of the trees. It is the burrowing into the heart of the palm which causes the most damage and the palm succumbs eventually.

But drones are being used to inject the tree with a special fungus which works like a vaccine.

"The palm reacts and activates its defences. It’s just like a vaccine. Its immune system becomes alert and stops the weevil from spreading," agricultural engineer Rafael López, one of the scientists working for Glen Biotech, a lab sponsored by the University of Alicante, told El Mundo.

The drone can reach heights that other techniques can not, flying higher than 12 metres. It can treat 140 trees a day.

The most successful fungus tested was Beauveria bassiana.

"This is a biological fight against the plague without using insecticides or other chemicals, making sure that the surrounding areas stay free of substances that could harm the other flora," said López.

Tests conducted at the country’s second largest grove, the Palmeral de Abanilla, have been encouraging.

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0 #1 liveaboard 2016-06-12 13:33
I've been fighting the weevil for some time now; the pesticides are a bit expensive but no longer legal to buy without a license, which is not available to persons not fluent in Portuguese.

The fungus sounds interesting, but the drone thing makes it look like a gimmick.

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