Saturday, 7 May 2016

Disaster, disaster, disaster!



My good friend, José, popped by yesterday morning; he wanted to show me something.

We are used to having American Blight on our Chestnut trees, but this is something far more serious.

I hope you can see the reddish swellings on the small branch (above), they look rather like Oak Apples or certain hairy growths that appear on wild Roses. Each contains one or two grubs that will mature to become a tiny flying insect that in turn will lay about 200 eggs. As yet there is no real antidote other than an insect that eats them, but reproduces at a much slower rate. All his grafted trees are affected, as well as the wild trees in the woods. They kill the trees.

Already this wretched insect (which hails from Japan) has created havoc through Italy, Spain, and other countries to the east. Entire areas are now denuded of their Chestnut trees.

José is a true Chestnut aficionado. He lives and breathes Chestnuts, and has huge plantations. Our local woodland is also about 80% Chestnut. It is simply unimaginable the impact this problem will have on the area. It will change it radically.

Our mushroom crop (Cepes) will also be affected, as the Boletus mycelium lives in symbiosis with the Chestnut. I cannot imagine life here without Cepes and the excitement of our autumn Cepe hunting. And if you were thinking of laying Chestnut Parquet flooring in your home, you'd better do it now.

Poor José was distraught. He could see his very raison d'etre slowing being eroded. It remains to be seen what shape the trees are in this time next year.

I thought he said it was called Cyneps, but I can't find any reference to this on Google. (p.s. Rachel now tells me it's called Cynips; thank you)

p.s. I've just had a look at my own few Chestnut trees on the edge of our field, and they too have these bloody growths on them. Horror!


49 comments:

  1. Oh no, that is terrible news. The loss of one species always affects the life of others. The American Chestnut is almost extinct due to a fungus that killed most of them in the 20th century. I hate to hear that France and other parts of Europe might also lose something so beautiful that contributes so much to their way of living. I do hope that the scientists of today can come up with a solution to this problem.

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    1. It is devastating news, the effect on the area (and so many other areas) is unimaginable. I do hope they can find some remedy.

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  2. Asad story. I hope that thee is something people can do against crule nature.

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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Rachel; I'm surprised that Mr Google didn't just alter my spelling a bit. He always does it when you don't want him to.

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    2. I can't believe there isn't a spray to kill it off. It is buzzing its way through Europe unfettered.

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    3. My friend José suggested that the bug was attracted to certain varieties more than others, and this may be due to an aroma. I believe scientists are working on this possibility, but it sounds a bit late.

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  4. That's terrible news. It's the kind of news that gives me a slightly sick feeling.

    I hope a solution is found, quickly.

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    1. Sadly I doubt if it will. I think we'll soon have to accept that this great Chestnut growing area will no longer do so. Very sad.

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  5. I am quite distraught for José too! This migration of species causing havoc is all too common these days. x

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  6. José's daughter Laurence called to see us yesterday evening, and was talking about all those who would be affected. It's not just our Christmas Chestnuts that will disappear, but saw mills, flooring factories, flour mills, mushroom canners, the list goes on.

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  7. What terrible news - another tree disappearing from our landscape. It's a tragedy that this should happen, and that there is no known antidote. I'm not a chestnut fan, but I can still imagine how horrifying it is for those whose livelihood relies on them, and those who enjoy eating them.
    Can we assume that the Japanese did nothing to prevent the disease taking hold?

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    1. I don't think there's anything that anyone can do; even the Japanese.

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  8. That is scary news. Our neighbour has just planted a new chestnut wood. Other local farmers hit by bird 'flu here as well.

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    1. I've just come back from my morning dog-walking. José said that his main variety 'Bouche de Bétizac' was less affected than others; I checked one of his big plantations; it was covered. Have a look when you're out today.

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  9. How devastating for José and everyone else who rely on the Chestnut crop ...... so many people's lives will be affected. Let's just hope that it won't touch every tree and that something can be done..... I can't imagine how your friend must be feeling. XXXX

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    1. I think we're all feeling a bit stunned, but for those who've worked all their lives building-up businesses based around Chestnuts and by-products, it really is a kick in the teeth; about which they can do nothing.

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  10. Another prime example of the utter lack of biosecurity laws within the EU I am sorry to say. It sickens me to think of the livelihoods destroyed and forests butchered simply because they utterly failed to put in place proper safeguards. You can also see why New Zealand and Australia enforce their biosecurity laws with such zeal.
    For your friend it means generations of work down the Drain!

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    1. It really is bad news. NZ and OZ are right (as annoying as it might seem to a few). At least they have a better chance of not losing their flora to such things; although nothing is foolproof.

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  11. I remember the elm trees dying years ago. I lived in an area where there were many elms and it was so sad to see their demise, therefore I feel so sorry for the chestnut trees, and sorry for the people who make their living from looking after them.

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    1. It's going to make our landscape look very strange; just oaks and pines.

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  12. That is very sad. In 1997 we were one of the first to discover a new bug to New Zealand, the Guava Bud moth. The authorities said not to worry about it. It is spreading rapidly and is now causing wider problems.

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    1. We ignore these things at our peril.

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  13. The last two to ravage UK trees didn't affect food source trees. This will presumably be a disaster of much greater magnitude than, say, Dutch Elm Disease. I had better make some more chestnut soup (one of my favourites) whilst I can.

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    1. The Chestnut used to be a very important food source; French peasants lived off it through winter making soup, bread, and a type of porridge. Nowadays folk are wealthier, so it has become more of an occasional food; Christmas being a good example.

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  14. Nasty, very sorry for all those who are affected by it. I'm fascinated as to how these things originate. You said it hails from Japan where presumably it has killed off their chestnuts. But where dit it come from before then? These things seem to spring up from nowhere. A similar problem to Japanese Knotweed over here, which is absolutely deadly should it appear in your garden and a bugger to get rid of. But presumably it behaves itself in Japan from whence it came....

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    1. I think it was originally from China, but the present wave comes from Japan.

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    2. It comes from the orient. I thought how exotic it sounds.

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    3. It seems that so many nasty things can be traced back to China.

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  15. Is there anything that can be done?

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    1. I believe they're working on it, but the problem is HUGE. These tiny 'wasps' multiply like crazy.

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  16. Oh, Gawd. Life is changing everywhere. And we thought we would live out the last years of our lives in tranquility.

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  17. I'm late to respond as I've recently returned from holidays (no Bunny sighting on the Sunshine Coast, unfortunately).

    Johnny Depp and his partner recently made a mockery of our (Oz's) stringent quarantine laws by smuggling their cute little doggies into the country on a private jet, thinking our laws couldn't possibly apply to them. Idiots! We have tight security for a reason and it has worked relatively well for us (apart from those pesky European wasps sneaking in).

    How devastating for José and everyone else affected by this dreadful blight.

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    1. We heard about Depp and partner trying to smuggle the doggies; what an idiot. As you say, he probably thought he was above the law.

      The continent of Europe is more difficult to control than a large island like Oz; we have no barriers, and tiny insects just go where they wish. I don't know what can be done.

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    2. We have winds coming up from France this weekend and have been warned about French pollution. Who knows what they might bring.

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    3. The scent of Garlic? Fermenting grapes? Rotting cheese? We send all-sorts up to Norfolk.

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    4. Ha! Bring it on then!

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  18. This is very bad news for those who enjoy eating chestnuts and those whose livelihood derives from growing the trees. Is this the first year that the cynips appeared in your area? I'm wondering what happened to the other insects who have been keeping the chestnut destroyers in check?
    Is this another result of mild winters? There are so many questions arising in my ignorant head.

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    1. Yes, this is the first year they've appeared, and they're everywhere. It could be the mild winters; a good hard frost does a lot of good in the countryside!

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  19. This is so sad. I love eating chestnuts, a joy, I learned living in Japan. I wonder if the mild winter Frances mentions is one answer ?
    We are having a insect problem here where I live now. With Mother's Day coming our border with Mexico is being flooded with cheap flowers and they are covered with a insect that if left to breed will destroy our crops.
    I hope this can be stopped so you can save your trees and mushrooms.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. That sounds just as awful as here. Can't your people simply stop the import? Mexico is getting a lot of bad press at the moment.

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    2. NAFTA... North American Free Trade Agreement. I was against this but it was pass anyways.
      No, we can't because you can not say anything bad about Mexico. If you do you are a horrible
      person. (like Trump) If people would listen to what is really happening here on the border, they would understand better.
      If you buy fruit and veggies from Mexico you have soap and water wash them, the fruit like oranges, mangos, watermelons have been found to have cocaine on the skin, from all the drug smuggling. I try to buy local as much as I can.
      Which means I eat very seasonally.

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  20. What a tragedy. Here in the western United States we have beautiful forests devastated by disease and insects. All it takes is one lightning strike or careless campfire and we have a raging inferno.

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    1. There are so many consequences to what is happening world-wide, it hardly bares thinking about.

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  21. It would seem, given their life cycle, that using horticultural oils in addition to their natural predator would be the most effective way to slow their speedy reproduction. Huge project, but I suspect there would be a number of volunteers to help with it. Horticultural soaps are another possibility, but I rather doubt they would be as effective as oil.

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    1. I have recently planted a Chestnut tree and I shall be spraying with Tar Oil. I have no idea if this will help; we'll see.

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