`Thousands of Xylella-Resistant Trees to Be Planted in Puglia - Olive Oil Times

Thousands of Xylella-Resistant Trees to Be Planted in Puglia

By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 31, 2022 13:41 UTC

A new effort in the south­ern Italian region of Puglia is under­way to plant 18,000 Xylella fas­tidiosa-resis­tant trees in the next few months.

The trees will be planted in for­mer olive groves, which were dec­i­mated by the spread of Xylella fas­tidiosa over the past nine years.

The munic­i­pal­ity of Specchia, Lecce, in south­ern Puglia, signed an agree­ment with Foundation Sylva, an orga­ni­za­tion that restores land­scapes through refor­esta­tion, to plant thorny oak, carob, straw­berry, holm oak, mas­tic and other Xylella-resilient trees on 20 hectares in the province.

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The project comes on the heels of a pre­vi­ous exper­i­ment in nearby Minervino di Lecce, where the foun­da­tion suc­cess­fully replaced a Xylella-stricken area with 11,000 new trees. Along with plant­ing the trees, the agree­ments also charged the foun­da­tion with tak­ing care of the new forests for at least five years.

Promoting a greater vari­ety [of plants] in the area means cre­at­ing a more pro­tected envi­ron­ment con­cern­ing future plant epi­demics,” Luigi de Vecchi, the pres­i­dent of the Sylva Foundation, told Corriere Salentino.

After the refor­esta­tion project started a year ago in Minervino di Lecce… we are happy today to con­tribute to the post-Xylella land­scape regen­er­a­tion in the Specchia area,” he added.

While some of the involved areas are par­tially uncul­ti­vated, the remain­ing hectares were home to cen­turies-old olive trees, which died in just a few years as Xylella fas­tidiosa spread through the region.

Thanks to the part­ner­ship with Foundation Sylva, Specchia can now cre­ate a large green lung,” said Anna Luigi Remigi, Specchia’s mayor. The for­est will gen­er­ate oxy­gen and bio­di­ver­sity, which will restore the bio­log­i­cal cycles of our land, with the return of endan­gered flora and fauna.”

Xylella fas­tidiosa, a pathogen native to the Americas, is believed to have arrived in Italy from an infected cof­fee plant imported into Salento, at the south­ern tip of Puglia, in 2013.

Two sub­species of the pathogen infect olive trees, caus­ing the deadly Olive Quick Decline Syndrome. In the past nine years, the dis­ease has killed mil­lions of olive trees, mostly in the Gallipoli area.

It took quite a long time for author­i­ties to iden­tify the cause of the dis­ease and estab­lish the actual pro­por­tions of the infec­tion, which has spread to France, Portugal and Spain.

In just a few years, large por­tions of Salento’s his­toric olive tree land­scapes were trans­formed into a grave­yard. The spread of the dis­ease also took a pro­found toll on the local econ­omy, which was largely cen­tered around olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Thousands of olive grow­ers, millers, bot­tlers and asso­ci­ated busi­nesses had to cope with the effects of the unprece­dented san­i­tary emer­gency, which included sub­stan­tial erad­i­ca­tion zones and large buffer areas to try and stem the spread of the dis­ease.

As a result of these con­tain­ment mea­sures, the spread of Xylella fas­tidiosa has slowed sig­nif­i­cantly. However, there is still no cure or treat­ment for the dis­ease.


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