Wageningen University and Research Centre

Xylella bacteria increasingly affecting olive trees in Southern Europe


EU-wide emergency measures came into force on 19 May to deal with the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, the cause of a devastating disease in various plants including olive trees in Italy. Xylella fastidiosa is a quarantine organism in the EU. There are no pesticides for combating this bacterial disease, so reliable detection and diagnostic methods are essential for preventing the spread of the bacteria.

Until recently Xylella did not occur in Europe, but in 2013 this pathogen was discovered in olive trees in Italy. The impact of an infection with Xylella is considerable because the infected trees die off, but also because drastic measures need to be taken to prevent the disease spreading further.

Xylella does not only affect olive trees; decorative plants, citrus groves and vineyards are also at risk. To combat this disease and prevent further infection, all affected plants and trees are destroyed and strict import controls and measures are applied. Reliable detection and diagnostic methods are important in this context, because if plant materials fail to be approved there are huge financial consequences for the growers and traders involved.

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