Deadly disease killing olive trees across the Mediterranean could cost the industry £17.5BILLION


Deadly disease killing olive trees across the Mediterranean could cost the industry £17.5BILLION and force the price up in supermarkets

  • Xylella fastidiosa pathogen infecting trees in Italy and maybe Spain and Greece
  • It is the most deadly disease in the world for plants and there is no cure 
  • Researchers predict there will be a knock-on effect for consumers  

A deadly pathogen that is infecting olive trees in Europe could end up costing £17.5billion, according to a new report. 

Researchers have modelled the worst possible impacts of the Xylella fastidiosa pathogen which has already killed hordes of trees in Italy. 

The bacteria, spread by insects called spittlebugs, is now also threatening olive plantations in Spain and Greece. 

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the devastating effects of the disease could also see prices of olive oil shoot up in supermarkets.

A deadly pathogen that is infecting olive trees in Europe could end up costing £17.5billion, according to a new report. Pictured are workers burning part of an infected olive tree 

Xylella is one of the most deadly for plants all over the world and there is currently no cure. 

As well as olive trees, it can also infect cherry, almond and plum trees but is mainly associated with olives after a strain was discovered in 2013 in Puglia, Italy.  

Once the infection enters the tree, it limits its ability to move water causing it to eventually die.  

Since the first discovery of the disease in olive trees in Italy in 2013, the infection has seen roughly a 60 per cent decline in crop yields.  

Dr Maria Saponari, from the CNR Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection in Italy, told the BBC: ‘The damage to the olives also causes a depreciation of the value of the land, and to the touristic attractiveness of this region.

‘It’s had a severe impact on the local economy and jobs connected with agriculture.’ 

Researchers have modelled the worst possible impacts of the Xylella fastidiosa pathogen which has already killed hordes of trees in Italy. Pictured are workers burning part of an infected olive tree

Researchers have modelled the worst possible impacts of the Xylella fastidiosa pathogen which has already killed hordes of trees in Italy. Pictured are workers burning part of an infected olive tree

In order to combat the disease, infected trees have to be chopped down and officials are trying to clamp down on the movement of plant material. 

The researchers made projections for Italy, Spain and Greece, which between them account for 95 per cent of European olive oil production.

If the majority of olive trees in Spain become infected then the costs could rocket to £14.8billion over the next 50 years.    

A similar scenario in Italy would amount to four billion, while in Greece, the losses would be under two billion.

Researchers predict that these costs could be significantly reduced if the rate of infection is slowed.    

The bacteria, spread by insects called spittlebugs, is now also threatening olive plantations in Spain and Greece

The bacteria, spread by insects called spittlebugs, is now also threatening olive plantations in Spain and Greece

However they still believe that the disease will end up impacting consumers. 

Lead author Kevin Schneider, from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said: ‘I would expect that if prices go up, consumers will be worse off.’

The authors also touched on the potential for large tourism and cultural losses caused by the disease. 

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the devastating effects of the disease could also see prices of olive oil shoot up

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the devastating effects of the disease could also see prices of olive oil shoot up

Scientists are currently developing methods to curb the rate of infection, including insect repellent sprays, barriers and genetic analysis to find why some plants are more susceptible than others.  

In the end, they believe the most efficient way to combat the disease will require trees that are immune to it.   

While two varieties of olive tree have been found to have some resistance, the authors are calling for more research in this area. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk