Cyprus Mail

Olive trees safe so far from deadly pathogen spreading over Med

File photo

Reports of a deadly olive tree disease spreading over the Mediterranean surfaced in international media on Monday, but the disease, Xylella fastidiosa, has not spread to Cyprus, or at least not yet.

Researchers say the economic costs of a deadly pathogen affecting olive trees in Europe could run to over €20 billion, the BBC reported on Monday.

“When it started killing olive trees in the south of Italy a quarantine was put in place, a bit late…the parallel with the covid is striking,” Nicolas Netien, who manufactures organic olive oil in Cyprus commented on Tuesday.

“The tricky thing is that many plants can carry the disease and are asymptomatic,” he added.

When the disease first started to be known Netien wrote to the ministry of agriculture straight away, proposing a ban on plant imports from Italy and systematic testing.

The ministry now has a task force in place and olive trees that are imported are tested, but imports from Italian nurseries cannot be banned because of EU laws.

Research has shown that organic non intensive groves have less chances to be affected, as the immune system of trees which have access to wider diverse nutrition is stronger, which is one reason why Netien is optimistic, at least regarding his own crops, but it is not the only one.

“The good news is that a treatment is under testing in Italy and first results are really promising,” he concluded.

Xylella fastidiosa bacteria were first detected in Europe in 2013 when more than 230,000 hectares of olive trees in Puglia, Italy, began to die off. There is still no known cure for this bacteria which is deadly to olive trees, and the disease poses a risk to various plants and crops throughout Europe.

Another imported deadly disease which threatens Cyprus trees is the red palm weevil.

Tens of thousands of palms in Cyprus have been killed by this prolific beetle since it was first imported from Egypt in 2006.

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