Sandalwood Spike Disease

Sandalwood Spike Disease

Sandalwood trees in India are facing a serious threat due to the devastating Sandalwood Spike Disease- SSD.

Sandalwood Spike Disease key points:

  • Sandalwood means sandalwood trees is considered the pride of India especially Karnataka.
  • It is noteworthy that the infection of sandalwood spike diseases has re-spread in the natural habitat of these fragrant trees in Karnataka and Kerala.
  • Various reserved forests, including the natural population of sandalwood trees in Marayoor in Kerala and MM Hills in Karnataka, are heavily infected with Sandalwood Spike Disease (SSD) which is untreated.
  • At present there is no option other than cutting and removing infected trees to prevent the spread of this disease.

Sandalwood Spike Disease

Sandalwood Spike Disease- SSD):

  • Sandalwood spike disease (SSD) is caused by Phytoplasma, ie ‘bacterial parasites of plant tissues’ that are transmitted by insect vectors.
  • Every year 1 to 5% of sandalwood trees are destroyed due to this disease. Scientists have warned that if measures are not taken to prevent its spread, then this disease can destroy the entire natural population of sandalwood trees.
    • Apart from this, he also said that if there is a delay in preventing this infection, the disease can spread to immature sandalwood trees.

Measures taken to prevent infection:

  • In the year 1899, the disease was first reported in Kodagu district of Karnataka. Between 1903 and 1916, more than one million sandalwood trees were removed in Kodagu and Mysore regions.
  • In the year 1907, the then Maharaja of Mysore announced a reward of Rs 10,000 to the person who had found a cure for the disease.
  • Later during the year 1917-1925, 98,734 sandalwood trees were cut in Salem due to this disease.

IUCN Red List Status:

Sandalwood was classified in the IUCN Red List in the ‘Vulnerable’ category in the year 1998 due to the devastating disease in the natural habitats of sandalwood trees.

Currently Sandalwood area:

Presently the natural population of sandalwood is spread in Mariyur in Kerala and in some places in the reserved forests and adjoining areas in Karnataka. Those who are highly infected with Sandalwood Spike Disease (SSD).

Disease Effect:

Sandalwood spike diseases (SSD) have been a major cause of the decline in sandalwood production in the country for more than a century.
The price of Indian sandalwood and its oil has increased significantly since the year 1995 mainly due to the reduction in production at the rate of 20%.

Historical importance of Sandalwood:

India has been a traditional country for the production of sandalwood oil for perfumes and pharmaceuticals. In early 1792, Tipu Sultan declared it the ‘Royal Tree’ of Mysore.

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