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As Eager Travelers Return, Italy Is Losing Its Prized Olive Trees

Xylella fastidiosa has infected 20 million of Italy's 150 million olive trees. The bacterial pathogen has potential to kill 100,000s of ancient olive trees

Italy’s tourism industry, which took a heavy battering from Covid-driven travel restrictions, is now faced with the loss of one of its most popular natural attractions.

In early November 2021, the Italian government ordered the uprooting of 1,150 olive trees in the Piana degli Ulivi Monumentali (Plain of Monumental Olives) in Puglia, a southern Italian region that attracts millions of tourists and celebrities such as Madonna and George Clooney. The felled trees were infected with Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium that slowly chokes trees to death. It has already infected 20 of Italy’s 150 million olive trees, mostly in the region of Puglia, which used to contribute up to 50% of Italy's total annual olive oil production.

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