Italy Tourism Could be Hit as Deadly Bacteria Plagues Millions of Olive Trees

If you are planning to visit Italy and are inspired by its stunning olive tree orchards, you may be in for some disappointment. The picturesque olive trees of Italy have been plagued with a bacterium which is causing their destruction. According to a report by Bloomberg, the Italian government ordered the uprooting of 1,150 olive trees in the Piana degli Ulivi Monumentali known as Plain of Monumental Olives in Puglia, a southern Italian region, earlier in November 2021. The region attracts millions of tourists and celebrities who may not be seeing the prime attraction of the region anymore.

The bacterium, known as Xylella fastidiosa, already infected 20 million of Italy’s 150 million olive trees which, according to Bloomberg, used to contribute up to half of Italy’s total annual olive oil production. In order to prevent the spread of this bacterium among other Olive trees, the Italian government uprooted the infected trees since they were found in a buffer zone. However, it is not just Italy that is affected by this plague.

A 2020 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) had projected 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 bacterium has killed millions of olive trees in Italy since 2013 and is now threatening those in Spain and Greece as well. In total, these countries produce 95% of Europe’s olive oil, mentioned the study. According to 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 Olive Quick Decline Syndrome.

According to a report by NPR, Xylella has mainly affected almond trees and vineyards in Spain. Blanca Landa, a plant pathologist at the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, told NPR that Spain’s olive farmers should stay vigilant. Landa told NPR, “You never know what can happen if farmers import unvetted plants and introduce something that can be really dangerous and completely destroy the economy of a country.”

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