Signs of Life Among Puglia’s Xylella-Ravaged Groves

Farmers in the southern Apulian commune of Casarano – in a Xylella fastidiosa red zone – have successfully harvested olives of the Favolosa cultivar. The triumph provides a roadmap for other producers in Xf-hit areas.
Oct. 12, 2020
Paolo DeAndreis

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Olive grow­ers are cel­e­brat­ing a sign of hope and rebirth” after har­vest­ing healthy olives from trees recently rein­tro­duced to the Xylella fas­tidiosa-rav­aged region of Puglia.

Farmers from Casarano, a com­mune located close to Lecce at the heel of Italy’s boot, have har­vested olives from their two-year-old trees belong­ing to the Favolosa cul­ti­var (or Fs-17).

We esti­mate that for every hectare of (Favolosa) olive trees, farm­ers could har­vest every year, in the period of full fruit ripen­ing, up to one ton of olives.- Italian Farmers Confederation, 

Due to the bad weather, we are har­vest­ing at most 10 per­cent of the true poten­tial of these young trees, but [this har­vest has been] a great suc­cess com­pared to the six or seven years that it would have taken our Xylella-hit tra­di­tional cul­ti­vars, such as Cellina and Ogliarola, to achieve the same results,” local farmer Cosimo Primiceri told Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Primiceri was one of the first to plant the Xylella-resis­tant cul­ti­var in this part of Puglia, an area in which tra­di­tional olive groves have been wiped out by the dis­ease.

See Also: Xylella Fastidiosa Updates

Fs-17 is not a com­mon cul­ti­var. It was dis­cov­ered and patented by the Italian National Research Council (CNR) more than 30 years ago.

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The cul­ti­var is descended from the Frantoio vari­ety and was bred for medium to high-den­sity cul­ti­va­tion. The Favolosa trees usu­ally yield high num­bers of olives each year and the fruits ripen early. The vari­ety is also self-fer­tile, which allows it to grow well in mono­va­ri­etal orchards.

In addi­tion to these selected qual­i­ties, Italian researchers have also dis­cov­ered that the cul­ti­var is immune to the highly deadly and con­ta­gious Xylella fas­tidiosa.

See Also: Extraordinary Plan to Revitalize Olive Trees in Puglia

According to the Italian Farmers Confederation (CIA), the Favolosa vari­ety can restore for­merly boun­ti­ful regions of olive oil pro­duc­tion back to their full poten­tial.

We esti­mate that for every hectare (2.5 acres) of olive trees, farm­ers could har­vest every year, in the period of full fruit ripen­ing, up to one ton of olives,” the CIA said. “[These olives] are des­tined to give birth to an excel­lent extra vir­gin olive oil, which is already widely appre­ci­ated by con­sumers for its organolep­tic prop­er­ties.”

The Favolosa cul­ti­var is cur­rently grown in Puglia, Umbria and Sicily. Outside of Italy, Fs-17 is also grown in the United States, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Chile and Argentina.

See Also: Puglia Defines Protocol for Replacing Affected Trees

Among the many farm­ers and pro­ducer asso­ci­a­tions cel­e­brat­ing this land­mark har­vest in Casarano was the national con­sor­tium, Italia Olivicola.

According to recently-pub­lished research from the orga­ni­za­tion, since the dis­cov­ery of Xylella fas­tidiosa in the Gallipoli area in 2013, the dis­ease has quickly spread both north and south, dam­ag­ing five mil­lion trees – almost one-quar­ter of all the area’s olive trees – in the provinces of Lecce, Brindisi and Taranto.

Italia Olivicola said that the aver­age har­vest for these provinces has fallen by 29,000 tons each year as a result of Xylella fas­tidiosa, decreas­ing over­all Italian olive oil pro­duc­tion by roughly 10 per­cent.





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