Just because everywhere you look there seems to be a lavender-scented something—candles, bath salts, essential oils, deodorant—doesn’t mean there’s an endless supply of the fragrant flower. Quite to the contrary, lavender—and we mean fine lavender, the type that only grows in the highest altitudes of the Provence region of France—has become vulnerable to disease and its harvests are threatened.

Wilt, according to Givaudan, the flavors and fragrance firm, is affecting lavender crops, a bacteria caused by an insect indigenous to the region. No, lavender cannot be treated with insecticides—one of the first obvious solutions—as the treated lavender would kill the bees that often visit the flower, subsequently affecting the production of honey.

Givaudan, a major customer of lavender, has for the past five years partnered with France Lavande Co-op, a group of 150 farmers in the Provence region, to buy nearly 50% of its annual lavender demand from the Co-Op. And, building on that relationship, Givaudan has also become a member of Crieppam, a French fragrant plants research organization, and has built a three-way partnership in which Givaudan finances the supply of certified healthy lavender plants from Creippam to the Co-Op. The partnership works to encourage farmers to join the cooperative and to collaboratively evaluate and improve lavender quality each year to strengthen the crop in the future.

According to Givaudan’s Olivier Fallet, Givaudan’s Naturals Purchasing Director, the objective is “to work with our research partners to eradicate the disease to continue to use fine lavender in our fragrance creations.”

Crieppam is also researching the use of kaolinite clay to limit contamination of lavender and lavandin plants (a hybrid of lavender) with the phytoplasma bacteria. The first results are very encouraging: healthy lavender plants have been grown in a contained environment—in large greenhouses with anti-insect nets—and help support the future life of lavender. Farmers can then purchase these disease-free plants.

This program has an important impact on the Givaudan perfumers’ palette, given its beautiful and captivating aura.

Givaudan perfumer, Marypierre Julien, said, “The captivating scent of lavender instantly takes me on an emotional journey full of memories, back to my childhood in the south of France. There, in Marseille, the scent of wild lavender made such an impression on me, eventually inspiring me to become a perfumer.”