South Europe Could Lose $22 Billion Fighting Deadly Olive Tree Disease

“A deadly bacterium, xylella fastidiosa, has killed millions of olive trees in southern Italy. One of the hardest-hit areas is Lecce province in the Puglia region (pictured here). Xylella, which has no cure, “is almost like the coronavirus of olive trees,” says Maria Saponari, a plant virologist at the Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection in Italy. “

“Federico Manni first noticed something was wrong with his family's olive trees about six years ago.

It was summer, the cicadas were singing, and Manni and his father, Enzo, were weaving through their olive groves in Puglia, the southern region forming the “heel” of Italy's boot.

They noticed some trees looked burnt.

“Dead branches, brown leaves,” Manni says. “Terrible, really terrible.””

Joanna Kakissis reports for NPR May 3, 2020.