Devastating Xylella disease spreads into Spain

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Devastating Xylella disease spreads into Spain

A devastating disease that poses a major threat to olive growers was recently detected in Spain for the first time, on the Balearic island of Mallorca. olive-trees-garden-shutterstock_361260437

The infectious Xylella fastidiosa pathogen was discovered on a cherry tree at a garden center during a routine check, prompting authorities to impose a movement ban covering 15,000 hectares.

The disease was first detected in Europe three years ago in Southern Italy, and has since spread west and ravaged the olive industry. Previously the disease had only been present in Asia and the Americas.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo described the disease as the 'Ebola of olive trees'.

The Balearics' Department of Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries said the disease subspecies found on the island had only been recorded infecting cherry and oleander plants, but measures were being taken to eradicate it.

Authorities are now carrying out further tests of other potential host plants and are setting tramps to catch the insects that vector the disease.

The Xylella fastidiosa bacterium invades the vessels that a plant uses to transport water and nutrients, causing it to display symptoms such as scorching and wilting of its foliage, eventually followed by the death of the plant.

Experts warn that the disease, which has numerous hosts and vectors, has the potential to devastate the European Union (EU) olive harvest.

Globally, the EU is the largest producer and consumer of olive oil. According to the European Commission, the region produces 73% and consumes 66% of the world's olive oil.

Reports suggested the Xylella fastidiosa outbreak led to a 20% increase in olive oil prices during 2015.

Related stories: European MPs demand action to halt spread of olive tree bacteria

Italy: Olive tree cull aims to combat bacteria breakout

EU agrees on provisional plant protection deal

Italy: Treatments reduce Xylella symptoms but do not kill pathogen


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