Pierce’s Disease Crisis in Puglia: EU report marks step in the right direction

xylella fastidiosa pierce diseaseHere’s a translation of the sign above: “Attention: You are now leaving an area infected with Xylella fastidiosa [Pierce’s Disease]. Do not remove plants or parts of plants. Let’s all work to stop the spread of the disease. Xylella fastidiosa can be stopped.”

Yesterday, the European Food Safety Authority published a report entitled “Xylella ‘is causing olive disease in Italy.'”

It doesn’t really tell us much that we didn’t already know: Xylella fastidiosa, otherwise known as Pierce’s Disease, is decimating the olive trees of lower Puglia and is destroying the livelihood of families who have produced olive oil for generations. In many cases, trees that are hundreds of years old are being grubbed up in the hope of stopping the spread of the disease.

(Here’s the link to a post I did in December of last year with some great online resources about Xylella fastidiosa.)

The one bit of news reported in this dispatch is that researchers have discovered that certain olive cultivars are less susceptible to the disease than others. And that’s a big step toward figuring out how to develop a cultivar that is resistant to the bacterium.

But the report also represent an important bureaucratic milestone: The EU has now officially confirmed that the bacterium is the cause of the crisis. Until this point, many had resisted this thesis and some had even suggested that the crisis was caused purposefully by humans in order to create political and/or economic havoc.

According to the report, “Giuseppe Stancanelli, head of EFSA’s Animal and Plant Health Unit, [has] said: ‘These findings confirm that the CoDiRO strain of X. fastidiosa causes olive dieback. This is an important step forward [italics mine] because we can only accurately assess the risk of an epidemic spreading from Apulia if we fill knowledge gaps on the host range and epidemiology of the Apulian strain.'”

As the president of the Puglia chapter of Coldiretti, the Italian Federation of Food Growers, Cantele grape grower and winemaker Gianni Cantele is on the front lines the battle to stop Xylella fastidiosa.”

Here’s what Gianni wrote on his Facebook when he posted the link to the report:

“As I said [recently] at the Coldiretti conference in Bari, in the light of this news and the publication of scientifically obtained evidence that attests to the ‘alien’ origins of the bacterium, there are now all the necessary conditions to quickly revisit many of the concepts that have caused a de facto paralysis in monitoring, research, and efforts to stop the spread of the contagion. I trust in the courage and in the intellectual honesty of those who can and who must do this.”

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