New Effort to Save Xylella-Hit Olive Trees in Apulia

The new Apulian initiative brings together olive growers, farm owners and researchers to save Ostuni’s centuries-old olive trees from Xylella fastidiosa.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Jan. 11, 2023 19:02 UTC

In Ostuni, one of the Apulian dis­tricts hit by the Xylella fas­tidiosa infec­tion, olive grow­ers and own­ers of the tra­di­tional rural farms known as masserie” are prepar­ing to com­bat the bac­te­ria infect­ing their mil­lenary and cen­tury-old olive trees. The olive grow­ers and farm own­ers will team up with researchers to sup­port, spread and finance the wide­spread appli­ca­tion of the Scortichini pro­to­col.

Olive oil pro­duced by the resilient orchards adher­ing to the pro­to­col cre­ated by the newly funded anti-Xylella asso­ci­a­tion, Circle of Life,” will be sold and researched.

We have already started; this year it was our first year. We have two hun­dred olive trees here, and for the ini­tia­tive, we pro­duced one bot­tle of extra vir­gin olive oil for each one of the trees,” Jennifer Andreu, owner of Masseria Guadalupe in Ostuni and Circle of Life coor­di­na­tor, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Growers in Xylella-Ravaged Puglia Assess a Delicate Harvest

The result­ing Olio Traiana” EVOO is named after the Via Traiana,” the ancient Roman road that con­nected Brindisi to Benevento and the rest of the Roman ter­ri­tory.

The goal of the asso­ci­a­tion is to give value to the excel­lent olive oil pro­duced by the ancient trees while pro­tect­ing them and sup­port­ing those who do not have the means to adopt the pro­to­col and save their trees,” James Kinahan, Olio Traiana and Circle of Life mar­ket­ing man­ager, told Olive Oil Times.

The asso­ci­a­tion hopes to even­tu­ally adopt a spe­cific label for EVOOs pro­duced by Scortichini pro­to­col-adher­ing orchards. That could also help in spread­ing our idea to other dis­tricts and reach other infected areas,” Andreu added.

For the cur­rent pro­duc­tion, we have had the inter­ven­tion of the famous Mexican artist and designer Pedro Friedeberg, who authored this year’s label and helped us craft a prod­uct which also includes infor­ma­tion about the Scortichini pro­to­col,” Kinahan noted.

In the last seven years, sev­eral olive grow­ers have applied the Scortichini pro­to­col in south­ern Italy. Its suc­cess illus­trated how a cor­rect deploy­ment of a spe­cific organic prod­uct cou­pled with good farm­ing prac­tices and effi­cient prun­ing tech­niques could pre­vent and cur­tail the impact of the bac­te­ria.

We have seen the results by talk­ing with the grow­ers who are apply­ing the pro­to­col. We already orga­nized two events with the local com­mu­nity, and new ones are sched­uled. There is a grow­ing inter­est for the pro­to­col,” Andreu said.

The Scortichini pro­to­col is named after the National Research Council direc­tor of research Marco Scortichini. Over the years, the pro­to­col has been shown to halt the bac­te­ri­a’s repro­duc­tion and allow the olive tree to with­stand the infec­tion.

We had Marco Scortichini at the last event in December, with him was another researcher of the University of Bari, Francesco Porcelli, whose work is cru­cial in under­stand­ing the dynam­ics of the spread­ing of the bac­te­ria. We also had the sup­port of the local branch of the CIA-Italian farm­ers asso­ci­a­tion, which will help Circle of Life in reach­ing farm­ers in the area,” Andreu explained.

Many local grow­ers inter­viewed by Olive Oil Times con­firmed that the Scortichini pro­to­col allows even highly infected olive trees to recover and start pro­duc­ing again.

See Also:Xylella Fastidiosa Containment Protocol Proves Effective in Puglia

On top of that, the pro­to­col proved to be suc­cess­ful in cur­tail­ing highly-dam­ag­ing fungi and con­tain­ing the spread­ing of the olive fruit fly,” Andreu noted.

Andreu, born in Mexico, is team­ing up with other ex-pats to save the his­toric Italian olive trees, which is why many of them moved to Puglia. We are talk­ing about plants included in the UNESCO world her­itage list. When we arrived here and saw such a unique land­scape, we found so many other masse­ria own­ers wor­ried for the future of the beloved olive trees. We all felt there was a lack of guid­ance and cur­rently adopted pro­to­cols were not stop­ping Xylella from spread­ing,” she added.

In the last few months, dozens of trees have been infected out­side the red zone areas. Just a few weeks ago, local regional author­i­ties expanded the ter­ri­tory for­mally con­sid­ered hit by Xylella to include the new regions.

In the infected dis­tricts, author­i­ties con­duct intense mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions and destroy infected olive trees. Farmers attempt to use clean­ing prac­tices to limit the oppor­tu­ni­ties for the Xylella vec­tor insects to repro­duce and con­tribute to the fur­ther spread­ing of the bac­te­ria.

Still, just before Christmas, mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions again found more infected trees out­side the cur­rent red zones.

Our goal is to give value to the olive oil of those unique cen­turies-old plants. And to show how the pro­tec­tion of the trees and of such land­scape has strong eco­nomic impli­ca­tions,” Kinahan noted.

The next steps for the new ini­tia­tive will include post­ing all of its infor­ma­tion and a treat­ment cal­en­dar online. That will help grow­ers to con­tact us and even­tu­ally adhere to the asso­ci­a­tion. It will also sup­port them in plan­ning in advance the deploy­ment of the pro­to­col the whole year through,” Andreu con­cluded.


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