• Spain's news in English

Could olive 'ebola' wipe out crop in Spain?

The Local · 25 May 2015, 13:09

Published: 25 May 2015 13:09 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The Xylella fastidiosa bacteria originated in the United States but was detected in southern Italy in 2013 and has since been responsible for olive quick decline syndrome (OQDS) a disease that has caused a rapid decline in olive plantations.

The bacteria had never been detected in Europe before being confirmed in southern Italy, where it is currently ravaging olive groves in the region of Apulia.

Now officials in Spain are worried about the potential threat to the country's olive groves; Spain is the biggest olive oil producer in the European Union. 

Christened "olive ebola" by Blanca Landa, researcher from the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture, part of the CSIC, one of Spain’s foremost scientific organizations, the disease is currently threatening to decimate Spanish olive groves across the south of the country.

"The Italian outbreak is very virulent," Landa told Spanish daily ABC, "the bacteria’s virulence in olive trees is unprecedented," she added.

"It is unforgiving. The Italian farmers we met told us they had taken better care of their olive groves than their children and now they are irrevocably damaged. In barely a year it can wipe out an entire plantation."

There is no cure for the bacteria and affected olive trees have to be felled.

Ester Herranz, a Popular Party MEP has complained that the European Union has done little to confront the disease since it was first detected in 2013.

EU action has been slow off the ground; only last week the European Parliament failed to pass a resolution calling for the EU to take the threat from the bacteria more seriously by investigating if it was necessary to stop agricultural imports from high risk zones.  

Landa has criticized the lack of EU funding for research into the disease which is already affecting olive groves in Italy and could already be in Spain:

"Xylella could already be in Spain and have gone unnoticed," she told ABC, "one of the species it affects is oleanders and Andalusia is full of them, often very close to thousands of acres of olive groves."

Story continues below…

The fear is that if the bacteria did make it to Spain, there would be very little anyone could do to stop it: "It would be unstoppable," Landa added.

"We need a system in place of mass screening for the bacteria to avoid having to take the preventative measure of tearing up thousands of olive trees," she said. 

EU member states failed to reach an agreement on how to stop the spread of the disease back in March 2015. Spain wanted a hard line, fearing for its own olive groves as well as vines and citrus trees, EU officials told AFP. 

But Italy was less willing to take drastic measures as growers mounted increasing resistance to the destruction of age-old olive groves. 

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain’s Socialists lift veto on conservatives
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available