`Researcher Calls for Greater Vigilance to Stop Killer Disease Ravaging Groves in Puglia


Researcher Calls for Greater Vigilance to Stop Killer Disease Ravaging Groves in Puglia

Dec. 16, 2015
Gaynor Selby

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Xylella fas­tidiosa is a bac­terium caus­ing the Olive Quick Decline Syn­drome and can affect other crops vital to var­i­ous agri­cul­tural sec­tors across Europe, hence huge con­cern around EU coun­tries about the poten­tial con­se­quences of the dis­ease spread­ing to other ter­ri­to­ries and plants.

There are cur­rently sev­eral out­breaks in Italy with Puglia being bat­tered by the dis­ease and on the French island of Cor­sica in the Mediter­ranean.

The whole of Europe is at risk of Xylella intro­duc­tion if mea­sures of inter­cep­tion are not taken.- Gio­vanni Martelli, Uni­ver­sity of Bari

When we asked for com­ments about the risks of Xylella fas­tidiosa spread­ing to Spain and else­where in Euro­pean olive pro­duc­tion areas, plant pathol­o­gist and olive dis­ease expert Gio­vanni Martelli from the Uni­ver­sity of Bari said he would need a crys­tal ball” to know all the answers, urg­ing vig­i­lance is key at all times.

The whole of Europe is at risk of Xylella intro­duc­tion (the epi­demics in Puglia and Cor­sica prove it) if mea­sures of inter­cep­tion of all plant mate­r­ial imported from Cen­tral Amer­ica are not taken,” he said.

It is unlikely or hard to say that there is a pos­si­bil­ity that Xylella that has hit the olive trees in Puglia has the chance to reach Spain.


We are try­ing to stop the progress of the dis­ease, not nec­es­sar­ily with the thought for Spain or other oil pro­ducer coun­tries, but mainly because we are pre­oc­cu­pied with the olive oil indus­try in the rest of Italy.”

Martelli said that cur­rently Xylella is con­cen­trated in the south­ern part of the penin­sula of Salento in Puglia, with the infec­tion scat­tered around sev­eral dif­fer­ent olive groves.

The esti­mated amount of land this involves is 100,000 hectares, con­sist­ing of around one mil­lion trees.

Since the cri­sis has deep­ened over recent months, Ital­ian author­i­ties and the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion have been mon­i­tor­ing the dis­ease closely and there have been sev­eral oblig­a­tory culls to erad­i­cate dis­eased trees, much to the dis­may of local olive farm­ers.

No infec­tions have been detected else­where in Italy, how­ever over­seas it has been reported in the Amer­i­cas, Iran and Tai­wan.

Just last week the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion crit­i­cized Italy for not doing enough to con­tain Xylella, claim­ing author­i­ties were not imple­ment­ing all com­mit­ments on erad­i­ca­tion, con­tain­ment and sur­veil­lance of Xylella.”

Martelli pointed out that Spain has excel­lent research cen­ters in Cat­alo­nia and Andalu­sia that can diag­nose Xylella pres­ence and act swiftly to pre­vent the spread of the infec­tion.

That’s why, I repeat how impor­tant it is to keep your eyes open and super­vise any sus­pected man­i­fes­ta­tion which could appear on olive trees or on any other species,” Martelli added.

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