Multi award-winning specialist growers and supplier of olive trees, Villaggio Verde, has today unveiled pioneering testing procedures to help halt the spread of the potentially devastating bacterial disease, Xylella into the UK.
Xylella has now been added as a threat to UK horticulture as it is already present in mainland Europe, and fears have risen of it being accidentally introduced to the shores of the British Isles.
After recognising the threat, Villaggio Verde started discussions with specialist horticultural scientists more than a year ago to explore innovative methods that they could adopt to assure their customers and the industry in general.
Its new, onsite testing zone, located at its nursery in Worcestershire, is run by a fully-trained technician who takes samples from every single Villaggio Verde olive tree. Using the advanced DNA based tests, similar to the well-known pregnancy kit, results are generated in just under an hour. Testing has just started and is now in full operation.
Leaf samples are taken from the tree canopy and analysed, providing rigour and reliability. Once tested, the tree is issued with a unique certificate, relating to a security tag, showing the olive tree ‘Tested Negative’.
Villaggio Verde has been working closely with Professor of Plant and Microbial Science, Roy Kennedy, from Pershore College (Warwickshire College Group). He has helped train all members of Villaggio Verde staff, showing them exactly how to carry out controlled tests and providing an understanding to the whole team.
Professor Kennedy said: “The threat of Xylella is becoming increasingly significant so it was incredibly encouraging to see such forward-thinking in biosecurity from a grower and supplier. By taking the pioneering step of commissioning us to train a technician on how to use the DNA kit, Villaggio Verde is providing certainty in uncertain times and ensuring that all of their trees have a completely clean bill of health.”
Villaggio Verde owner Jason Hales is passionate about implementing methods to future-proof our environment against external threats.
He said: “We feel education is key in biosecurity. We hope that by implementing this testing protocol we will inspire others to adopt the same process, therefore significantly reducing the threat to our shores and our native flora.
“Villaggio Verde has always been the leader in the growing and supply of olive trees and we believe this important initiative will prove to all how serious we are.
“We are totally committed to ensuring that anyone purchasing a Villaggio Verde olive tree can be assured of its health and provenance.
“For us, it’s about getting ahead of the curve in biosecurity to help gardeners, landscapers, the environment and our industry. With more than 350 known plant species susceptible to Xylella, including basics like lavender and rosemary, it is important that we all source and buy our plants and trees through trusted reputable suppliers. Xylella was first identified more than 100 years ago on grape vines in California and the threat still remains.”
The specialist firm, which has more than 20 years’ experience, already has strict methods in place to help ensure it never brings an infected plant into the country.
Villaggio Verde only recovers olive trees from commercial olive groves in Southern regions of Spain and Portugal where there is no cover crop or vegetation for the spittle bug, the main vector, to live.
Olive trees are tested in various parts of the grove before the trees are removed, before being containerised and taken to the nursery, where they stand on gravel with no habitat for the vector.
Each tree is pollarded and all vegetation is removed. Over three growing seasons, the trees are batch tested regularly by the Spanish Authority before being moved to the UK for further regular inspections and annual testing by DEFRA.
For more information about Villaggio Verde please visit www.villaggioverde.co.uk
or call 01886 887822.
ABOUT VILLAGGIO VERDE
Established more than 20 years ago, Villaggio Verde is the largest grower and supplier of olive trees in the UK. Villaggio Verde offers a comprehensive range of olive trees from young through to ancient specimens, in all forms including wild and natural to more formal and clipped. It also sells gifts made from olive wood, a by-product. The firm has a haul of five RHS gold medals, two Silver-Gilt and one Silver. For more information visit villaggioverde.co.uk or call 01886 887882.