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Xylella Fastidiosa Bacterium Arrives in Spain

A vicious bacterium that, according to experts, has the potential to devastate Europe's olive harvest has been spotted for the first time on the island of Mallorca during a routine check.

Olive trees in western Mallorca
Nov. 27, 2016
By Reda Atoui
Olive trees in western Mallorca

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A sub­species of the vicious pathogen dubbed the Ebola of olive trees” by Span­ish news­pa­per El Mundo and that, accord­ing to experts who have had to deal with it in the past, has the poten­tial to dev­as­tate the Euro­pean Union’s olive har­vest has been spot­ted for the first time 0n the island of Mal­lorca.
See more: Com­plete Cov­er­age of the Xylella Fas­tidiosa Out­break
The dis­ease, Xylella fas­tidiosa, ranks among the most dan­ger­ous ones in the world,” to crops and is a very seri­ous threat, say experts. The pathogen col­o­nizes the ves­sels that a plant uses to trans­port water and nutri­ents.

The sub­species that has been found on Mal­lorca so far only affects cherry trees and ole­an­ders, accord­ing to Europa Press.

The result is that the plant suf­fers severe symp­toms such as scorch­ing and wilt­ing of its foliage and even­tu­ally dies. The fact that the bac­terium has numer­ous hosts and vec­tors is a con­cern for local author­i­ties as the like­li­hood of a com­plete con­t­a­m­i­na­tion on the island is a sce­nario that has not been excluded.

The pathogen was detected for the first time in Mal­lorca by offi­cials from the Balearic’s Depart­ment of Envi­ron­ment, Agri­cul­ture, and Fish­eries dur­ing a rou­tine check on three cherry trees located in one of the city’s gar­den cen­ters. It has yet to infect the island’s olive trees but author­i­ties have remained wholly cau­tious about the issue.

In an effort to pre­vent fur­ther con­t­a­m­i­na­tion gov­ern­ment offi­cials have estab­lished a move­ment ban on the island cov­er­ing 15,000 hectares; the aim is to con­tain and erad­i­cate the bacterium’s spread.” Span­ish author­i­ties are per­form­ing tests on other plants and search­ing for insects that vec­tor the dis­ease in order to gauge its spread and to even­tu­ally erad­i­cate it.

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Such out­breaks have become a major pre­oc­cu­pa­tion not only for Spain, but in Italy and the whole Euro­pean Union while the olive oil mar­ket has been affected by mediocre har­vests and increases in olive oil price in 2016.

In fact, the Euro­pean Union’s 2016 olive oil pro­duc­tion is expected to sharply decline as the sec­tor has faced many threats. Drought and dis­eases have stroke South­ern France and Italy, and Spain, the world’s largest olive oil pro­ducer, has faced uncer­tain­ties stem­ming from the government’s pes­simistic yield fore­casts. The Ebola of olive trees” is yet another major con­cern for Euro­pean olive oil grow­ers who have had a rough year.

The Xylella fas­tidiosa bac­terium was first dis­cov­ered in Puglia, Italy in 2013. The pathogen greatly affected Italy’s olive har­vest — hun­dreds of thou­sands of hectares of olive oil had been rav­aged — and later wreaked havoc on South­ern France’s olive oil trees.

It has been pre­vi­ously spot­ted in Asia and in Amer­ica. 2015’s Xylella fas­tidiosa out­break resulted in a twenty-per­cent increase in olive oil prices. In the event that Span­ish author­i­ties would not be able to erad­i­cate it, olive oil price could see an unprece­dented rise.



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