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The idea behind using dogs to save dying olive trees in Italy

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The chief plant health inspector for the administration of the province of Lecce, Angelo Delle Donne, who has been battling Xylella since it was found in Puglia in 2013, claims that “these dogs have something special.”

A bacterium called Xylella fastiodiosa slowly suffocates trees and other woody plants by clogging the xylem, the vessels that transport water from the roots to the leaves. The disease is spread by the common insect known as the spittlebug; when it bites an infected leaf, the bacteria enters its saliva, where it then spreads to the next healthy plant.

Once infected, the plant gradually dries up and there is no known treatment for this illness (though some infected plants manage to survive without showing symptoms). At the time of the last tally, 595 plant species worldwide were impacted by the various Xylella strains. Xylella has destroyed pear trees in Taiwan, southern California vineyards, and orange fields in Brazil over the past century. Then, ten years ago, Xylella made it to the olive trees in Puglia.

Puglia used to produce up to 50% of Italy’s olive oil with its 60 million olive trees, but in just a few years, Xylella infected and killed 21 million trees, many of which were hundreds of years old.

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