`Researcher Calls for Greater Vigilance to Stop Killer Disease Ravaging Groves in Puglia - Olive Oil Times

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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