`Italy Unveils Plan to Battle Olive Tree Killer

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Italy Unveils Plan to Battle Olive Tree Killer

Sep. 4, 2014
Olive Oil Times Staff

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Experts say Italy’s Ole­an­der-lined roads are act­ing as con­duits, spread­ing the bac­te­ria Xylella fas­tidiosa.

More than eight months after deadly bac­te­ria has threat­ened olive crops in Italy, and olive prices world­wide, the Ital­ian Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture (MIPAAF) has announced a mon­i­tor­ing plan to bat­tle Xylella fas­tidiosa, the plant-killing microbes that have infected over 74,000 acres of olive trees in the region of Puglia.

The plan involves enforc­ing a san­i­tary cor­don in the most recently affected Leece to pre­vent the bac­te­ria from spread­ing north. Cor­dons require form­ing an enclosed, well-trimmed plot heav­ily treated with pes­ti­cides. Addi­tion­ally, the Min­istry has pro­posed increased mon­i­tor­ing of the bac­te­ria, the felling of infected plants and bet­ter track­ing of poten­tial car­ri­ers of the bac­te­ria.

The MIPAAF will intro­duce a sci­en­tific com­mit­tee of indus­try experts to sup­port the exist­ing National Plant Pro­tec­tion Ser­vice in research­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of infected trees and trans­mis­sion. The min­istry also plans to pro­vide finan­cial assis­tance to affected farm­ers and pro­duc­ers.

The ori­gin of the bac­te­ria remains unknown, but accord­ing to Rolando Man­fre­dini, an expert with an Ital­ian farm­ers’ lobby group, Xylella fas­tidiosa likely came from imported plants such as ole­an­der. Italy’s motor­ways are often lined with ole­an­ders, which turn the roads into flower-lined avenues, but could also turn them into deadly con­duits for the dis­ease to spread through Italy to other regions noted for their olives, like Tus­cany,” Man­fre­dini told the Tele­graph.

Accord­ing to Anto­nio Guario, a health offi­cial with the regional gov­ern­ment, Italy cur­rently exports 480,000 tonnes of olive oil annu­ally, mak­ing it the world’s sec­ond-largest exporter after Spain.

The Euro­pean Food Safety Author­ity (EFSA) has reported there is no record of suc­cess­ful erad­i­ca­tion of X. fas­tidiosa once estab­lished out­doors due the broad host range of the pathogen and its vec­tors.”

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