The Xylella fastidiosa bacteria has hit olive trees in Lecce, on Italy’s eastern Adriatic seaboard. The European Commission has said one million olive trees in Lecce could be at risk, and has introduced a range of new measures to contain the outbreak.
An estimated 11 million olive trees, some hundreds of years old, grow in the region, which produces up to 30 per cent of Italy’s olive oil. Around 180,000 acres of olive groves are thought to have been hit by the bacteria so far, said industry newspaper, Olive Oil Times.
The bacteria was first observed in 2013, and Italy last year declared its first national emergency for a plant disease and has marked out an emergency zone of some 600,000 acres in Puglia.
Italy is the European Union’s second-largest olive oil producer after Spain, and produces a fifth of the world’s oil. The EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed said last month that more stringent measures must be taken by Italy to combat the bacteria, which is spread by the spittlebug, and which dessicates olive trees, preventing water being transported to branches from roots.