The Consorci Forestal de Catalunya and the producers of Quality Suber are calling on the Generalitat to act with "forcefulness” to curb the ravages that the plague of a hairy caterpillar has caused on the oaks.
They ensure that the species (Lymantria dispar) has already "exfoliated thousands of hectares” all over Catalonia, and that commit "seriously” the peel campaign. Although aerial treatments have already been carried out - especially in Maresme and la Selva - the Forestry Consortium emphasizes that it is not enough.
He says that the risk of peeling the affected oak trees means that “many producers” have decided don't do the cam this summer and that the 6,000 tons of cork that were expected to be extracted from the Catalan forests will be reduced to 25% due to the plague, passing from 6,000 to 4,500 tons.
Cyclically, the cork caterpillar becomes a pest and can cause intense defoliation that can last for several years (between 3 and 5). In 2018, the species attacked many Catalan forests, but the most important impacts were recorded in the Selva region (where practically 1,000 hectares were defoliated in 100%).
Faced with the forecast that there would be a new explosion of the plague this spring, the Generalitat has carried out aerial treatments and has fumigated 2,000 hectares of the Maresme and the Selva. But for the Forestry Consortium, the measure has fallen short. Both they and the cork growers say that the hairy caterpillar brings them a “great harm", because the species has "completely exfoliated thousands of hectares of cork all over Catalonia". This causes the trees to stop vegetative activity and, in turn, produce much less cork.
For this reason, the Consortium and Quality Suber are calling on Agriculture to allocate "many more resources to forest health” and to act “forcefully” to curb the plague. "Fumigation is an important effort, but not enough to alleviate the damage, which can range from a sharp drop in cork productivity to the death of the trees themselves", they warn.
Up to 25% less
Following the outbreak of the plague, the Consortium emphasizes that "many owners of estates with corks” have decided not to do the cam this summer, because there is a risk of “to weaken"the trees and leave them exposed"to other insects". This, added to the damage caused by the caterpillar on the oaks and the heather, means that the Forestry Consortium ensures that the peeling campaign will be seen "severely affected” this 2019.
In fact, the entity has already made calculations and assures that up to 25% less cork will be extracted from the forests than initially anticipated. If at the outset it was thought that 6,000 tons would be taken, this amount will now be reduced to 4,500.
The Consortium also warns that the plague of the caterpillar is not the only problem that the sector has to deal with. "It is added to the growing number of health problems suffered by the different types of Catalan forests, such as cork oak, yellow spot or scald, and which directly affect production or threaten their livelihood", he concludes.