Above: An ancient olive grove in Salento where Pierce’s Disease-affected trees have been grubbed up.
“The establishment of Xylella fastidiosa in Italy has been an agricultural, environmental, political, and cultural disaster.”
These are the words of U.C. Berkeley scientist Rodrigo P. P. Almeida who warns in a Science essay published last week that the march of Pierce’s Disease northward may be unstoppable.
“Xylella fastidiosa has been left unchecked,” he notes, “and has marched northward, leaving destruction in its wake.”
Professor Almeida’s article came to our attention thanks to a podcast by Rome-based biologist, author, and food blogger Jeremy Cherfas, whose work appears regularly on NPR among many other media outlets.
“Climate change and global trade combine to make it ever more likely that new pests and diseases will threaten food supplies,” writes Jeremy in his introduction to the episode this week for his popular “Eat This Podcast.”
“A classic example is playing out now in Puglia, the region that includes the heel of Italy’s boot. The disease is caused by a bacterium — Xylella fastidiosa — that clogs the xylem vessels that carry water up from the roots. No water means leaves shrivel and scorch and eventually the host plant can die. In 2013, Xylella was found for the first time in Europe, in olive trees near Gallipoli. Plant health plans swung into action, to try and eradicate, or at least contain, the disease. And so did politicians and activists, blocking progress with ignorance, half-truths and manipulation. In consequence, the disease has now spread to cover the whole of the Salento peninsula.”
Jeremy also brought this blog to our attention: “Diffusion of xylella in Italian olive trees.”
It’s an aggregate of English-language translations of Italian news about the disease and its spread.
Can Xylella fastidiosa stopped? According to some experts, it may be too late.