New pathogen threatens half of world’s olive oil supply

Kramer Phillips By Kramer Phillips | 3 years ago

A pathogen that devastated Italian olive trees has just emerged in Spain, and Spanish researchers fear that it could wreak havoc on the olive-oil industry all across the country. This is bad news for fans of olive oil everywhere as Spain is the source of half the world’s olive-oil supply by way of its estimated 340 million olive trees.
The pathogen, a bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa, turned up in a sample of 17 almond trees in eastern Valencia, according to Elena Cebrian, a local agricultural official. He said that while it did not kill the almond trees, it did reduce their almond production.
But the pathogen did kill a million olive trees in Italy last year and only stopped when Italian officials chain-sawed trees to the ground en masse to contain the spread of the sickness. There is currently no cure for it.
Cebrian and other officials are chopping down all trees and clearing all plants within a 300-foot radius of the infected almond trees to contain the infection. No olive trees have reportedly tested positive for the pathogen yet, and local officials hope that swift containment action will keep it that way. They are also disseminating insecticides in the area to kill any insects that might pick up the pathogen and carry it to other plants and trees, and they have banned imports from Spain’s Balearic Islands, where some Xylella sub-types appeared in cherry trees last year.
El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper, has called this pathogen “the Ebola of olive trees.” And a European Union report said that it is “one of the most dangerous plant bacteria worldwide” and is capable of decimating olive trees across the continent.