Latest Xylella Outbreak in Puglia Continues to Spread

Authorities have identified 136 newly-infected trees in Puglia. Among the new discoveries are two millenary olive trees in what was considered to be a buffer zone.
Oct. 16, 2020
Paolo DeAndreis

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The more Italian author­i­ties explore the true scope of the lat­est Xylella fas­tidiosa out­break in the Puglia region, the more exten­sive it appears to be.

The lat­est mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions have dis­cov­ered 136 olive trees afflicted by the deadly pathogen.

The dis­ease has spread from 8,000 hectares esti­mated in 2013, to 8,000 square kilo­me­ters.- Savino Muraglia, pres­i­dent, Coldiretti Puglia

Many of the trees recently infected by Xylella fas­tidiosa are part of the Monumental Olive Tree Valley, an area con­sid­ered by local farm­ers as the heart of Apulian olive cul­ture.

According to the offi­cial erad­i­ca­tion notes” pub­lished on the Apulian pub­lic web­site ded­i­cated to fight­ing the dis­ease, Emergenza Xylella, two ancient trees infected in the Monopoli area are con­sid­ered new out­breaks within the buffer zone.

See Also: Signs of Life Among Puglia’s Xylella-Ravaged Groves

Due to the cur­rent rules, trees in the area of at least 50 meters from the infected ones will have to be removed,” the farmer asso­ci­a­tion, Coldiretti, said in a press release.

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Those trees, like the other 134 found in the con­tain­ment area next to the buffer zone, are in many cases con­sid­ered new out­breaks because of the dis­tance between infected trees.

The num­bers involved and the dis­tance cov­ered by the pathogen are con­sid­ered espe­cially alarm­ing.

According to the mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions con­ducted by the Bari-based national research cen­ter, the dis­ease has spread from 8,000 hectares (19,700 acres), esti­mated in 2013, to the 8,000 square kilo­me­ters (4,970 square miles),” Savino Muraglia, pres­i­dent of Coldiretti Puglia, said.

Those fig­ures are fright­en­ing, not only for Puglia but for our whole coun­try,” he added. The num­ber of the infec­tions iden­ti­fied in Fasano and Ostuni, as has already hap­pened in Carovigno, mir­ror a dark sce­nario we have already seen in Oria and Francavilla. Just like we did in the past years, we ask for a timely response to avoid reduc­ing the Apulian eco­nomic, scenic and olive her­itage to ashes.”

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Millenary trees in Puglia are threatened by the Xylella fastidiosa pathogen.

What we are wit­ness­ing is the con­sol­i­da­tion of the bac­te­ri­a’s pres­ence both in the Monumental Olive Tree Valley and in the nearby plateau,” experts at Info Xylella, a spe­cial­ized orga­ni­za­tion devoted to mon­i­tor­ing the spread of the dis­ease, wrote on their web­site.

We are see­ing the num­bers of out­breaks in the mon­i­tored Ostuni area still grow­ing expo­nen­tially (a large part of that area, being in the red zone, is not mon­i­tored any­more), while in Cisternino and Fasano the two out­breaks recorded last year now have become nine, and the mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions are still ongo­ing,” they added.

Coldiretti esti­mated that in the south­ern area of the mon­u­men­tal olive tree val­ley, one-third of the trees have been lost to Xylella.

See Also: Xylella fas­tidiosa updates

The farm­ers orga­ni­za­tion fur­ther warned that the lat­est out­breaks in the north could lead to sim­i­lar dev­as­ta­tion. Coldiretti stressed the cul­tural rel­e­vance of the val­ley, empha­siz­ing how some of the trees date back 3,000 years; liv­ing mon­u­ments whose cir­cum­fer­ence often exceeds 10 meters.

“[It is] a truly his­tor­i­cal and touris­tic her­itage site, main­tained with gen­eros­ity by gen­er­a­tions of farm­ers,” Coldiretti said. Taking care of a mon­u­men­tal olive tree is much more com­pli­cated [than the more com­mon olive trees], with yields con­sid­er­ably lower than those of other trees. Such a plant also poses chal­lenges for prun­ing and treat­ment while requir­ing an exclu­sively man­ual har­vest­ing.”

The Xylella fas­tidiosa out­breaks in the region in the last seven years, Coldiretti added, have left many farm­ers with­out thou­sands of trees and with no income. Their infra­struc­ture, as that of many local olive oil mills, have been sold piece by piece to pro­duc­ers in Greece, Morocco and Tunisia.”





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