`Fears Disease Could Spell Disaster for Europe’s Olive Trees - Olive Oil Times

Fears Disease Could Spell Disaster for Europe’s Olive Trees

By Julie Butler
Oct. 30, 2013 13:57 UTC

Nerium ole­an­der infected with deadly strain of bac­terium Xylella fas­tidiosa. From Phoenix, Maricopa Co., Arizona, USA. (Wikipedia)

There is grave con­cern in Europe’s olive oil sec­tor over the first appear­ance there of a plant dis­ease said to have already infected tens of thou­sands of olive trees — many of them a cen­tury-old — in Italy’s Puglia region.

Scientists have rec­om­mended uproot­ing and destroy­ing the dis­eased trees amid the extremely rapid spread” of the bac­terium Xylella fas­tidiosa (Xf), accord­ing to Italian Member of the European Parliament Raffaele Baldassarre.

Baldassarre, of the European People’s Party, has asked the European Commission for urgent aid to address what he described as a par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous agent that has never been iden­ti­fied in Europe but which, in America and Asia, has caused dis­ease in var­i­ous species of plants, includ­ing vines and cit­rus trees, result­ing in sub­stan­tial losses to the agri­cul­tural sec­tor and the econ­omy.”

Fear of spread to other areas, crops

In a yet to be answered writ­ten ques­tion to the Commission, Baldassarre said that in recent months the very seri­ous, exten­sive and deadly plant dis­ease” had been spread­ing among olive trees in Puglia and in par­tic­u­lar in the province of Lecce.

The epi­demic, which causes the trees to dry out, has spread across an area of​around 8,000 hectares, affect­ing tens of thou­sands of olive trees. Following inves­ti­ga­tions and tests car­ried out by all the offices and insti­tu­tions respon­si­ble, incon­tro­vert­ible evi­dence has emerged that the infec­tion comes from a bac­terium called Xylella fas­tidiosa’,” he said.

The vast­ness of the area and the num­ber of affected trees, not to men­tion the extremely rapid spread of the bac­terium, is caus­ing grave con­cern not only for the dam­age already done, but for that which might be caused by fur­ther con­ta­gion, which could affect the rest of the olive, and other, crops in Puglia, Italy and Europe.”

Call for aid to cor­don off affected area and uproot trees

In the light of this dan­ger­ous, sci­en­tif­i­cally proven epi­demic and of the only course of action rec­om­mended, namely the uproot­ing and destruc­tion of the dis­eased trees, can the Commission say:

1. what mea­sures it intends to take, as a mat­ter of urgency, to ascer­tain and con­duct checks on the epi­demic in ques­tion and, con­se­quently, what sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal aid can be pro­vided to sup­port local insti­tu­tions;

2. what finan­cial mea­sures can be taken with a view to set­ting up a san­i­tary cor­don around the affected area and uproot­ing the infected trees, in order to pre­vent the spread of the bac­terium;

3. what finan­cial assis­tance can be given to pro­duc­ers affected by this extremely seri­ous infec­tion that is caus­ing such great eco­nomic dam­age?

Extensive leaf scorch and dieback of olive trees seen in Puglia

According to the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO), it first became aware of the pos­si­ble pres­ence of Xf on olive trees (Olea europaea) in Southern Italy in mid-October, when a mem­ber of the pub­lic alerted it via its Facebook page.

In a report under the head­ing First report of Xylella fas­tidiosa in Italy”, the EPPO, a inter­gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion respon­si­ble for plant pro­tec­tion in Europe, said that about the same time, Italy’s National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) had sent infor­ma­tion about the involve­ment of Xf in dis­ease observed there, namely exten­sive leaf scorch and dieback of olive trees, spread­ing rapidly in the area of Salento (Puglia region).”

While ini­tial tests for Xf were pos­i­tive, the NPPO had stressed that the defin­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the bac­terium still awaits its iso­la­tion in pure cul­ture in order to per­form path­o­genic­ity tests,” the EPPO report said.


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