Beauty companies such as L’Occitane rely on France’s lavender fields for many of their products. Which explains why they have been among the first to offer to fund research into the bacterium that is threatening the future of the plant.
Without action, the lavender fields that characterise Provence could be a thing of the past in 20 or 30 years’ time, experts say.
The bacterium is spread by cicadas. During the winter, small cicadas – known as cicadelles – eat the roots of the lavender. In spring and summer, adult cicadelles then feed on the plants.
All of this is spreading the bacterium stolbur phytoplasma, which is proving poisonous to the plant, causing it to die.
Blame is laid squarely on global warming – hotter, drier summers are a fertile breeding ground for the insect.
Researchers are now looking for a strain of lavender that is resistant to the bacterium. Without progress, the 10,000 jobs that depend directly on local lavender production may be at risk.
To say nothing of the impact on those who work in France’s tourist industry – or in its beauty houses.