Europe

Andalusia Declares Its Agriculture Xylella-Free

After the completion of 600 tests on regional crops ranging from olives to almonds and citrus, Andalusia determines the plague has not penetrated its borders.

Apr. 1, 2016
By Erin Ridley

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A recent Andalu­sia-focused study has con­firmed the absence of the Xylella fas­tidiosa bac­terium in a range of the region’s agri­cul­ture. The 600 tests were admin­is­tered on olive, almond, and cit­rus trees, as well as orna­men­tal plants — and all in the Andalu­sian regions of Almería, Granada, Málaga, and Jaén.

This pre­ven­ta­tive study was ini­ti­ated by the region’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture as part of a con­tin­gency plan meant to com­ply with EU demands to pre­vent the entrance and spread­ing of the bac­terium within the union (the world’s largest olive oil pro­ducer, whose indus­try could be destroyed by Xylella’s advance­ment).

As part of the plan, Andalu­sia imple­mented a vari­ety of mea­sures, includ­ing the afore­men­tioned series of analy­ses. These diag­nos­tic tests were able to ana­lyze the bac­terium, its mol­e­c­u­lar biol­ogy, and pro­vide early detec­tion if the dis­ease existed.

Since its dis­cov­ery in Italy in 2013, Xylella fas­tidiosa — which inhibits plants’ abil­ity to trans­port water and nutri­ents — has been recorded else­where in the EU, includ­ing south­ern France. So far Spain has remained unaf­fected, and these tests affirm that the plant pathogen has not yet pen­e­trated Andalusia’s bor­ders.

Other pre-emp­tive mea­sures beyond the test­ing have included enforc­ing com­pli­ance with the EU’s require­ments around the entrance of plant mate­r­ial from out­side coun­tries. Addi­tion­ally, Andalu­sia requested that the Span­ish cen­tral gov­ern­ment insist that regional author­i­ties across the nation pro­hibit the import of plant prod­ucts from Xylella-affected areas.

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It’s all an effort that the south­ern Span­ish region takes very seri­ously given the poten­tial eco­nomic impact if the plague were to take hold. Andalu­sia is the top pro­ducer of olive oil in the world, with 1.5 mil­lion hectares of land ded­i­cated to the indus­try.

The result is some 250,000 fam­i­lies and more than 300 munic­i­pal­i­ties who depend on the region’s olive agri­cul­ture — and hope that they can con­tinue to. So far so good for Andalu­sia, though the bat­tle against the bac­terium is cer­tainly far from over.


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