If you’re planning to visit Italy and are inspired by its beautiful olive orchards, you might be disappointed. Picturesque olive trees in Italy have been infested with a bacteria that is causing their destruction. According to a Bloomberg report, the Italian government ordered the uprooting of 1,150 olive trees in the Piana degli Ulivi Monumentali known as the Plain of Monumental Olives in Puglia, a region in southern Italy, earlier in November 2021. The area attracts millions of tourists and celebrities who may no longer see the main attraction of the area.
The bacterium, known as Xylella fastidiosa, has already infected 20 of Italy’s 150 million olive trees which, according to Bloomberg, contributed up to half of Italy’s total annual olive oil production. In order to prevent the spread of this bacteria among other olive trees, the Italian government uprooted infected trees as they were found in a buffer zone. However, it is not just Italy that is affected by this scourge.
A 2020 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) predicted that southern Europe, already crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, could lose at least $22 billion ( around Rs 1.6 lakh crore) over the next 50 years, if Xylella spreads.
The bacteria has killed millions of olive trees in Italy since 2013 and is now also threatening those in Spain and Greece. In total, these countries produce 95% of European olive oil, the study mentions. According to the researchers, it was in 2013 that a strain of the bacterium was detected for the first time in European territory and that too in Italy, causing the syndrome of rapid olive decline.
According to a report by NPR, Xylella mainly affected almond trees and vineyards in Spain. Blanca Landa, a plant pathologist at Spain’s National Research Council’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, told NPR that Spanish olive growers should remain vigilant. Landa told NPR, “You never know what can happen if farmers import uncontrolled plants and introduce something that can be really dangerous and completely destroy a country’s economy.”
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