Puglia Warns Farmers of Ineffective Xylella Fastidiosa Cures

Members of the regional balance commission said no product on the market can cure the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria, which continues to hurt producers across the region.

By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 26, 2021 15:40 UTC

There are no prod­ucts on the mar­ket that may be used to elim­i­nate Xylella fas­tidiosa from infected trees, accord­ing to offi­cials from the Apulian regional bal­ance com­mis­sion.

The two prod­ucts that have been mar­keted in the past few weeks as reme­dies against the des­ic­ca­tion of the trees, and use­ful for bring­ing the plants back to their orig­i­nal glory, are a mix of nat­ural soaps or adju­vants,” Salvatore Infantino, direc­tor of the phy­tosan­i­tary obser­va­tory of Puglia, told a pub­lic hear­ing.

Public enti­ties should not repeat the errors of the past by giv­ing credit to non-sci­en­tific the­o­ries that already have done so much dam­age and to which much time has been lost.- Fabiano Amati, pres­i­dent, Apulian regional bud­get com­mis­sion

The offi­cials admit­ted that after eight years, there is still no easy solu­tion for stop­ping the most active pathogen affect­ing olive trees in Italy’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region.

See Also:Production in Italy Bolstered by Strong Recovery in South

Currently, stem­ming the disease’s spread requires trees to be mon­i­tored and even­tu­ally destroyed within infected areas, known as red zones, and con­tin­u­ally observed in the sur­round­ing buffer and con­tain­ment zones.

Infantino said that devel­op­ing a prod­uct capa­ble of com­bat­ing Xylella fas­tidiosa remains an impor­tant goal for many of those work­ing to cur­tail the dev­as­ta­tion caused by the bac­te­ria.

At the moment, good farm­ing prac­tices and erad­i­ca­tion are the only weapons we have against Xylella to buy time while wait­ing for a truly effec­tive treat­ment,” he said.

After the hear­ing, the pres­i­dent of the Apulian regional bud­get com­mis­sion, Fabiano Amati, told the local Brindisi Report news­pa­per that pub­lic enti­ties should not repeat the errors of the past by giv­ing credit to non-sci­en­tific the­o­ries that already have done so much dam­age and to which much time has been lost in the fight against Xylella.”

However, he added that stud­ies con­ducted in the United States and Spain about stem­ming the spread of the dis­ease were show­ing some promise.

A few pieces of research hint at a pos­si­ble role of a few viruses, which find nutri­ment in those bac­te­ria,” Amati said. But we still have to wait and see what hap­pens in the trans­la­tion from an exper­i­men­tal lab envi­ron­ment to an open grove.”

Hurdles in pub­lic financ­ing and in devel­op­ing a strat­egy to both con­tain the bac­te­ria and to restore Xylella-stricken agri­cul­tural areas remain among the chal­lenges local gov­ern­ment and grow­ers face, the local branch of the national farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, Coldiretti, said.

Savino Muraglia, pres­i­dent of Coldiretti Puglia, said that only six per­cent of all fund­ing requests had been approved up to now, with no actual fund trans­fer hav­ing yet occurred.

Nineteen months after the launch of the Apulian olive regen­er­a­tion plan worth €300 mil­lion, €134 mil­lion are still to be allo­cated,” Muraglia said. The inter­ven­tions which would have allowed farm­ers to return to pro­duc­tion after the Xylella cri­sis are yet to be acti­vated.”


Infected trees in Salento, Puglia

So, too, have the funds needed to remove the with­ered trees, fos­ter research and pro­duc­tion diver­sity,” he added. There is also the fail­ure of the project to graft the mon­u­men­tal olive trees, which had only 91 farm­ing com­pa­nies adher­ing due to the bureau­cratic hur­dles.”

Muraglia, who is also an award-win­ning pro­ducer in Puglia, said that diver­si­fi­ca­tion was vital for farm­ers in the Salento region seek­ing to recu­per­ate the land. He con­tended that the olive mono­cul­ture that had tra­di­tion­ally pre­vailed was one of the rea­sons why the bac­te­ria so heav­ily impacted the region.

Salento is a west-cen­tral area in Puglia and has been impacted severely by Xylella fas­tidiosa. Coldiretti said that in the last seven years, many olive groves had become grave­yards. As a result, farm­ers did not earn any income, and more than 5,000 jobs were lost.

Farmers in Bari, which is located north of Salento, are also wor­ried about Xyella fas­tidiosa spread­ing from the con­tain­ment and buffer zones in Alberobello, Fasano and Locorotondo to their own trees.

On the other side of the Salento, in Lecce, farm­ers also reported olive tree pro­duc­tiv­ity falling by half. Significant pro­duc­tion drops also have been reported in the Brindisi province, just east of Salento.

According to the regional phy­tosan­i­tary obser­va­tory, more than 108,000 plants have been mon­i­tored in 2021. Of these, 56 tested pos­i­tive for Xylella fas­tidiosa, with 26 in the con­tain­ment area and 30 in the buffer zone.

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