The puzzling "kiwi death": what are the causes? How does climate change influence?

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For eight years, the cultivation of kiwi in Italy has been devastated for reasons that still baffle the country’s scientists. The “death of the kiwi”, as farmers call it, started in 2012 in the vicinity of Verona and since then it affects several regions every summer.

It should be noted that this country is the second kiwi producer in the world, after China and before New Zealand, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, for its acronym in English).

In addition, it is one of the countries that consume this food the most, whose crop suffers from a disease that has occurred again this summer in areas where the vines bear a great deal of fruit. Currently, “around 10% of the production of this fruit is already compromised due to a mysterious death that blocks its ripening by attacking the heart of the plant, the roots”, as reported by Fabio Marzano at Green & Blue.

The Italian region most affected by the extinction of the kiwi is Lazio And, for this reason, the central government announced last September the creation of a working group with the aim of studying the disconcerting death of the kiwi.

“We are the second largest producer in the world, with 25,875 hectares of cultivated area with more than 500 thousand tons produced, of which 9,493 hectares and more than 200 thousand tons only in the Lazio region “, detailed the undersecretary of agricultural policies, Giuseppe L’Abbate, sAccording to the information published by the Council for Investigation in Agriculture and the Analysis of the Agrarian Economy (CREA, for its acronym in Italian).

In order to find solutions to this worrying problem, the working group of the country’s Phytosanitary Committee will work in the affected territories and “will follow the model already proven to address the problem of Asian bed bugs “.

It is a new phytopathy after bacteriosis that in recent years has subjected the agricultural sector to a complex challenge. The roots are affected, so much that they wither and, therefore, the fruits never grow.

It usually occurs during the summer months and it is a really fast process, since in just a few days the plants “completely wither” and the root system rots. It started in the Veneto region, but soon after it spread to Piedmont, Friuli, Emilia Romagna and finally Lazio.

“In total, some 8,000 hectares of plants have already been affected, for a estimated loss of approximately 750 million gross salable production, This figure must be doubled considering all the commercial induced “, they add from CREA.

It is difficult to know what the specific causes of this problem are as it is multifactorial, that is, there are various reasons that are contributing to the deterioration of kiwi plants such as “high precipitation concentrated in a few hours, soil compaction, inadequate irrigation techniques and a set of pathogens (fungi and bacteria) that cause rotting of the root system in a suffocated environment. ”

Researchers believe that there are several factors that can cause the destruction of kiwifruit such as the presence of fungi and bacteria in the soil, the absence of oxygen, stagnation of water after heavy rainfall and global warming.

Analysis and studies continue to find the root of the problem, but some experts suggest that the climate crisis could be accelerating the destruction of these crops, due to the intense heat waves experienced by various regions of the country during the summer and heavy rains. Although field trials have been conducted to try to find a solution, “the precise relationships between environmental and biotic parameters (fungi and bacteria) are still largely unknown and require in-depth study.”

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