In DepthFood Security

Italy's olives under siege

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Science  08 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6235, pp. 620
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6235.620

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In the far south of Italy, olive trees are falling victim to the devastating bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. In spite of control efforts, the disease is spreading north, ringing alarms across Europe. In January, the European Food Safety Authority warned of yield losses and rising costs from control measures. Italy declared its first national emergency for a plant disease. Workers are clearing sick trees and host plants such as oleander. This month, they will begin spraying insecticides to control the primary vector of the disease, the spittlebug Philaenus spumarius. These insects are common across Europe and abundant in olive groves. Genetic markers suggest the pathogen arrived in ornamental coffee plants and oleander exported from Costa Rica to Europe. Last week, an E.U. advisory committee recommended that the European Commission ban imports of ornamental coffee plants from Costa Rica and Honduras.