Agriculture officials in Spain are worried that a newly discovered bacteria could wreak havoc on one of the country's most important crops.
Newsweek reports that the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa was recently discovered on the Spanish mainland, which is home to some 340 million olive trees and responsible for about half the world's supply of olive oil.
The pathogen is spread by pests that feed on the tissue of infected plants and could be particularly harmful to olive trees. It prevents water and nutrients from reaching trees' leaves, which then dry out. The bacteria has no known cure and is often deadly.
Officials found the bacteria, which is native to the Americas, for the first time in Europe in 2013. European Union regulators criticized Italy's handling of the initial discovery, and the pathogen was subsequently found in Corsica in 2015 and in Mallorca, off the Spanish coast, last year.
This year, officials in Valencia in eastern Spain tested 17 almond trees for the bacteria after their production appeared to slow; 12 tested positive.
Although no olive trees were affected, nearby trees and plants were killed as EU regulators attempted to contain the bacteria.
Newsweek also noted that a subtype of that bacteria can kill grapevines — another key Spanish crop — and was also recently discovered in Mallorca.