Olive Tree Disease Strikes Italy

A bacteria is attacking Italian olive trees and worrying Europe

Wikimedia/Manfred Morgner

A plant disease has been attacking and killing olive trees in Italy. 

European officials are getting worried as a bacteria has been killing off olive trees in Italy, and it looks like it might be poised to spread.

According to The Local, the xylella fastidiosa bacteria was first spotted in 2013, and since then it has been killing off olive trees in the south of Italy. The bacteria also kills citrus trees and attacks vineyards, so it is creating a lot of concern about Italy’s culinary products. Italy is Europe’s second largest producer of olive oil.

Recent studies indicate that the bacteria has been found in approximately 10 percent of the trees in the worst-afflicted parts of Puglia. EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis has been recommending an active approach to preventing the spread of the disease by having any affected trees uprooted at the first sign of the bacteria. Some Italian producers are resistant, however, as many of the trees in question are very old and the farmers say uprooting everything suspected of carrying the bacteria would devastate the local economy and ecosystem, especially since some maintain that the withering trees are affected by a fungus, not the bacteria after all.

"The European Commission risks condemning to death the whole Puglia ecosystem on the basis of results of tests that have not even ascertained the pathogenicity of xylella in those trees,” said Italian environmental group Peacelink in a statement.

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