New Olive Disease in Italy Concerns California Researchers

Olive trees in southern Italy are experiencing quick-decline syndrome, which has California olive farmers very worried. The symptoms include leaf scorching, twig and branch dieback and, ultimately, tree death. The plant pathogen thought to be responsible, Xyllela fastidiosa, was found in Europe for the first time in 2013. Researchers in California are worried because this bacteria has been found in California olive trees for the past 100 years, but has not caused disease. Xyllela fastidiosa was found in diseased Italian olive trees, but the cause cannot be identified yet. There are many subspecies of this bacterium that cause a wide range of different diseases. This particular strain of Xyllela fastidiosa has different affects on olive trees in California and Italy. In California, the symptoms are much more subtle than in Italy. However, similar symptoms are being reported in California olive trees with no trace of Xyllela fastidiosa. The constant movement of plants across international borders will make finding the answer difficult, but Elizabeth Fichtner, an olive crop expert UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, is working closely with the USDA to facilitate early detection.

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