Officials in Puglia Approve New Plan to Stem Spread of Xylella Fastidiosa

The goal is to monitor and combat the bacteria outbreaks that have been destroying traditional and monumental olive groves for nearly a decade.

Puglia, Italy
Mar. 17, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Puglia, Italy

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The regional gov­ern­ment of Puglia has approved its new 2022 plan to fight the spread of the deadly olive tree pathogen Xylella fas­tidiosa.

The plan focuses on a sig­nif­i­cant increase in the mon­i­tor­ing of the dis­ease. More than 300,000 trees cov­er­ing 34,000 hectares will be exam­ined in the next few months.

All our efforts, invest­ment plans and con­tri­bu­tions will be mostly focused on the relaunch and the pro­tec­tion of our olive econ­omy.- Donato Pentassuglia, agri­cul­tural sec­re­tary, Puglia

Local offi­cials said the con­stant mon­i­tor­ing of the bac­te­ria cou­pled with a long list of mea­sures to pre­vent out­breaks and mit­i­gate infec­tions has already allowed them to iden­tify sev­eral areas that can resume nor­mal olive farm­ing activ­i­ties.

Among these is Canosa, located in north­west­ern Puglia, one of Italy’s most sig­nif­i­cant olive oil-pro­duc­ing loca­tions. An out­break was iden­ti­fied in the comune one year ago. However, regional author­i­ties said the spread of Xylella fas­tidiosa had been stopped, lead­ing the author­i­ties to declare the area Xylella-free.

See Also:Xylella Arrived in Italy from a Costa Rican Coffee Plant, Researchers Say

The Canosa strat­egy involved the lab­o­ra­tory exam­i­na­tion of almost 10,000 sam­ples in the out­break area and allowed local offi­cials to con­firm that the ini­tial out­break had been an iso­lated inci­dent.

Under the new plan, the author­i­ties still con­sider the Salento region, in the mid-south­ern part of Puglia, to be infected. The Monopoli, Polignano and Alberobello munic­i­pal­i­ties also adopted the same pro­to­cols, estab­lish­ing a 2.5‑kilometer buffer area that bor­ders infec­tion red zones.

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More infor­ma­tion to the farm­ers and com­pen­sa­tion for their pre­ven­tive works aimed at lim­it­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties for the Xylella insect vec­tors to spread the bac­te­ria are also included in the new plan.

As they have in pre­vi­ous years, local offi­cials said that farm­ers could do a few things to sig­nif­i­cantly limit the breed­ing and repro­duc­tion of insect vec­tors of the dis­ease, such as the spit­tle­bug.

With the incom­ing spring, we need to reit­er­ate how essen­tial the sur­face pro­cess­ing oper­a­tions such as plow­ing, milling, har­row­ing and shred­ding are to stop the younger gen­er­a­tions of the insects and, as a con­se­quence, the whole pop­u­la­tion of the spit­tle­bug,” said Donato Pentassuglia, the regional agri­cul­tural sec­re­tary.

The local branch of the farm­ing asso­ci­a­tion Coldiretti said pub­lic and pri­vate enti­ties need to exe­cute these oper­a­tions on unused farm­land, pub­lic green areas, road­sides, canals and other sur­faces.

However, Savino Muraglia, pres­i­dent of Coldiretti Puglia, said farm­ers should be reim­bursed for their expenses and efforts in curb­ing the spread of Xylella fas­tidiosa.

Just as pub­lic bod­ies ben­e­fit from fund­ing for manda­tory activ­i­ties, the agri­cul­tural entre­pre­neurs, even more, are due reim­burse­ments to sup­port phy­tosan­i­tary pre­ven­tion prac­tices,” Muraglia said.

The Regional Authority for Forests and Waters and the Carabinieri Forestal divi­sion will con­duct mas­sive mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions. To that end, satel­lite imag­ing, drones and detec­tion dogs will all be used.

The regional plan referred explic­itly to projects funded by the national author­i­ties, such as Redox, an effort to build new tech­no­log­i­cal infra­struc­ture for large-scale and con­stant pre­ven­tion oper­a­tions.

Due to aer­ial sur­vey and hyper­spec­tral sen­sors mounted on aer­ial drones, the goal of the Redox project is to iden­tify infected olive trees before they show the symp­toms of infec­tion, with mon­i­tor­ing occur­ring over large areas.

We are reach­ing first encour­ag­ing results which sig­nal the oppor­tu­nity of a pos­si­ble con­tri­bu­tion in the cur­tail­ing of this dis­ease,” Manuela Matarrese, a researcher at the Aero-spa­tial Technology District (DTA) in Brindisi, one of the part­ners of the Redox project, told Olive Oil Times.

By apply­ing results obtained by pre­vi­ous research and devel­op­ing the hyper­spec­tral sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, the Redox sci­en­tific part­ners should be able to rec­og­nize the health of an olive tree and pre­cisely iden­tify the loca­tion of the even­tual infec­tion,” she added. In many cases of infec­tion, just a branch will have to be removed and not the whole tree.”

Among the Redox part­ners is Unaprol, the olive oil pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion. Referring to the new edi­tion of the regional plan, David Granieri, Unaprol pres­i­dent, said, today we have to pro­tect the Monumental Olive Tree Valley which is a her­itage site for the whole coun­try.”

In this con­text, the deci­sion of the region to approve grafts on those mil­lenary plants with scions of Xylella-resilient olive cul­ti­vars is a rel­e­vant step for­ward,” he added.

In the Monumental Olive Tree Valley, the new plan con­firmed an expan­sion of spe­cial mon­i­tor­ing, up to 20 kilo­me­ters wide from the south­ern bor­der of the infected Salento region.

Our goal is to cre­ate bar­ri­ers and mit­i­gate the spread,” Pentassuglia said.

According to the local offi­cials, the mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions pro­vided for by the regional plan are unprece­dented in terms of resources used to stop the spread, coor­di­nated actions through­out Puglia and the new strate­gies being applied.

On one side, we have to cur­tail an extra­or­di­nary phe­nom­e­non. On the other, we have to sus­tain the olive sec­tor and pro­tect the beauty of our coun­try­side,” Pentassuglia said. We need to work with farm­ers, asso­ci­a­tions, munic­i­pal­i­ties, researchers, uni­ver­si­ties and regional author­i­ties.”

All our efforts, invest­ment plans and con­tri­bu­tions will be mostly focused on the relaunch and the pro­tec­tion of our olive econ­omy, the beat­ing heart of a beloved region, admired by the whole world,” he con­cluded.



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