Italian kiwi production is facing a significant threat. The world’s second-largest kiwi producer is facing a disease that has compromised around 10% of the production area, especially in Lazio. The mysterious affliction blocks fruit ripening by attacking the plants’ roots, causing them to wither. It usually occurs during the summer months and strikes very quickly, with plants withering completely in a few days as the root system rots. Having started in the Veneto region, the problem soon spread to Piedmont, Friuli, Emilia Romagna and finally to Lazio. In total, some 8,000 hectares of plants have already been affected, for an estimated loss of approximately €750 million.
The Italian government is so concerned that it announced the creation of a working group to study the problem. The working group will follow the model already proven to address the problem of Asian bedbugs. The specific causes are still unknown, but high precipitation concentrated in a few hours, soil compaction, inadequate irrigation and a set of pathogens (fungi and bacteria) are all thought to be contributory factors.