The Spanish dehesa, the land of meadows and pastures, has been under threat from a dangerous fungus named phytophthora. The dehesa provides a place for the Iberian pigs to graze. The pigs feed on the acorns produced by the holm oaks that are known to grow in the dehesa.
More than 500 different areas in Extremadura and Andalucía have been infected by the fungus and experts are concerned that the production of jamón ibérico may also be affected.
Phytophthora attacks the trees’ roots and makes absorption of water a difficult task for them. The reason it is spreading is that the dehesa has been suffering from droughts over an extended period. This was the hottest summer in Spain in 48 years. The holm oak decline known as ‘seca’ had affected 246,000 hectares of the 2.5 million hectare of the Spanish dehesa.
Young trees are more resistant to the attack from this fungus, but most of Spain’s oak orchards are old and none of the trees are able to avoid being affected if an orchard is under attack. But, the young plants are also under the danger of being destroyed by the ever increasing livestock which graze in the dehesa.