Authorities Identify Xylella Strain Infecting Vines, Almonds in Puglia

The new variant was detected in a region already severely affected by Xylella fastidiosa pauca.

Almond harvest in the Molfetta, Italy (AP)
By Paolo DeAndreis
Feb. 29, 2024 02:12 UTC
Almond harvest in the Molfetta, Italy (AP)

The task force mon­i­tor­ing Xylella fas­tidiosa in the south­ern Italian region of Puglia has iden­ti­fied a new strain of the bac­terium in the cen­tral com­mune of Triggiano.

By ana­lyz­ing sam­ples taken in 136 loca­tions, local experts found the fas­tidiosa sub­species (Xylella fas­tidiosa fas­tidiosa) in six almond trees. It is the first time the strain has been iden­ti­fied in the Italian region.

We must erad­i­cate the new strain of the bac­terium imme­di­ately, as it is capa­ble of attack­ing grapevines. If this were to hap­pen, it would be a mor­tal blow to agri­cul­ture in Puglia.- Gennaro Sicolo, pres­i­dent, Italian Confederation of Farmers

Given its poten­tial as a pathogen for var­i­ous plants, local author­i­ties noted that con­tain­ment pro­to­cols, includ­ing erad­i­cat­ing the infected trees, ana­lyz­ing the newly found bac­te­ria and fur­ther mon­i­tor­ing, will be con­ducted.

The dis­cov­ery of this new bac­terium stems from exten­sive, pre­cise and care­ful mon­i­tor­ing car­ried out by the agri­cul­ture depart­ment,” Donato Pentassuglia, the regional sec­re­tary to agri­cul­ture, told local media.

See Also:New Spray Could Protect Olive Trees from Xylella

At this moment, there is a need for a unity of pur­pose and activ­ity to sup­port the phy­tosan­i­tary secu­rity of the region,” he added. Now, we must extin­guish the out­break promptly by erad­i­cat­ing the bac­terium. There is no need for alarmism, but it is nec­es­sary to remain vig­i­lant.”

Pentassuglia said researchers still do not know how aggres­sive or infec­tious the new strain is but warned that extra pre­cau­tions sur­round­ing the pests that trans­mit the dis­ease, espe­cially those that prey on grapes, must be taken.

The infected plants iden­ti­fied by author­i­ties are located out­side Puglia’s red and buffer zones to con­tain a dif­fer­ent strain of Xylella fas­tidiosa, the pauca sub­species.

Over the past decade, Xylella fas­tidiosa pauca has caused the death of mil­lions of olive trees across south­ern Puglia.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, Xylella fas­tidiosa fas­tidiosa is not known to infect olive trees nat­u­rally. However, the sub­species is well known in the Americas for caus­ing the deadly Pierce’s dis­ease in sev­eral crops, such as grapevines.

Since its emer­gence at the end of the 19th cen­tury, Xylella fas­tidiosa fas­tidiosa has remained a sig­nif­i­cant threat to the United States wine indus­try.

Current mod­els pre­dict a mod­est global expan­sion of Pierce’s dis­ease in the next 20 years, pri­mar­ily due to the inter­na­tional plant trade, which expands the geo­graphic range of the pathogen.

Difficult to detect and often iden­ti­fied only after a long time from the ini­tial infec­tion, Xylella fas­tidiosa is actively spread by sev­eral vec­tor insects.

Puglia is a large wine pro­ducer and exporter. Other poten­tial tar­gets of the sub­species fas­tidiosa include almond and cherry trees, both broadly grown in the region.

Salvatore Infantino, direc­tor of the regional phy­tosan­i­tary obser­va­tory, told local media that the U.S. Xylella fas­tidiosa epi­demic and the Apulian out­break might still fol­low very dif­fer­ent paths.

The poten­tial aggres­sive­ness [of the newly found strain] depends on many fac­tors, such as the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the infected areas,” he said.

Gianluca Nardone, direc­tor of Puglia’s agri­cul­tural depart­ment, said the sci­en­tific net­work work­ing with the local author­i­ties on Xylella fas­tidiosa would deter­mine the ori­gin of the fas­tidiosa strain, its vir­u­lence and the poten­tial dam­ages it could cause to the local ter­ri­tory.

Xylella fas­tidiosa fas­tidiosa is cur­rently present in Europe, accord­ing to the EPPO Global Database, in Portugal and the Balearic Islands,” he said.

We must erad­i­cate the new strain of the bac­terium imme­di­ately, as it is capa­ble of attack­ing grapevines,” added Gennaro Sicolo, pres­i­dent of the Italian Confederation of Farmers (CIA). If this were to hap­pen, it would be a mor­tal blow to agri­cul­ture in Puglia.”

According to Sicolo, a com­pre­hen­sive approach to the new men­ace must be devel­oped through more deci­sive and sys­tem­atic sup­port for sci­en­tific research, cre­at­ing and strength­en­ing an inter­na­tional net­work capa­ble of finally find­ing effec­tive solu­tions. Such checks will allow us to address the new dan­ger.”

A call for local, national and European author­i­ties to join forces to con­tain the impact of the bac­te­ria came from sev­eral farm­ing orga­ni­za­tions.

In a note, Coldiretti Puglia, a farm­ers’ union, said a review of the cur­rent European reg­u­la­tions about plant imports should be imme­di­ately pro­moted, given the poten­tial sever­ity of out­breaks such as the infec­tion iden­ti­fied in Triggiano.

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