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.”

Puglia’s Pierce’s Disease crisis: Online English-language resources (before our trip)

olive tree pierces disease pugliaAbove: “Attention: You are entering an area infected by Xyella fastidiosa. Do not remove plants or parts of plants.” A sign in Puglia where the Pierce’s Disease crisis affecting olive growers remains unchecked (photo by Davide de Lentinis).

Sorry to be a bummer the week before Christmas.

But I wanted to share a couple of Pierce’s Disease resources here.

In just a few weeks, I will be traveling with a group of wine writers to Salento to visit the Cantele winery, where we will taste the wines with winemaker Gianni and eat at the estate’s cooking school iSensi, etc.

But we will also tour the olive groves that have been ravaged by Xylella fastidiosa, the bacterium that causes Pierce’s Disease.

Pierce’s Disease first appeared in Puglia in 2013 and has decimated the region’s olive tree population. Once a tree has been infected, the only solution is to cut it down so as to stop the spread of the illness.

So far, the only course of action taken by the European Union has been to quarantine affected areas. The fear is that it might spread to other parts of Italy and ultimately to continental Europe.

Here are a couple of online English-language resources worth looking at for their background info on the history and current situation.

The first is the University of California Berkeley’s Xylella fastidiosa page.

It hasn’t been updated in a while but the most recent entries are on the situation in Puglia today.

It also gives an excellent overview of what’s happened in Puglia until now.

The second is the European Food Safety Authority’s Xylella fastidiosa page.

It reports updates on what is currently being done in Europe to protect olive trees and grapevines from this growing threat. It also links to recent research on the disease and how to combat it.

It’s my hope that our upcoming trip (the first week of January, 2016) will help to raise awareness of this tragedy and what it’s doing to the millennial tradition of olive growing and olive oil production in Puglia.

Again, sorry to be a bummer the week before Christmas but please stay tuned.

Click here for our own thread on the crisis.

Pierce’s Disease Crisis in Puglia: A new commissioner and a new plan

olive tree pierces disease pugliaAbove: “Attention: You are entering an area infected by Xyella fastidiosa. Do not remove plants or parts of plants.” A sign in Puglia where the Pierce’s Disease crisis affecting olive growers remains unchecked (photo by Davide de Lentinis).

The Italian government has announced a plan and commission to combat the growing Pierce’s Disease crisis affecting olive growers in Puglia.

The “Stilletti Plan” is named after Giuseppe Stilletti, the Italian agriculture ministry’s commander for Puglia and the new commissioner in charge of spearheading a solution to the growing outbreak.

The commissioner’s office has a Facebook page that’s worth checking out. So far, it’s been updated regularly.

In a post yesterday, the editors of the page write that Stilletti’s plan has been approved and they include this note (translation mine):

In total, there are 31 outbreak areas at the moment that are being considered by the [Silletti] plan. An estimated 3,103 trees will be cut down of which 1,079 have been certified as infected (as of August 31, 2015) by the [agricultural ministry’s] Plant Health Inspection Committee.

We’ll be following the page and translating posts and posting them here as the page is updated.

Pierce’s Disease crisis in Salento: A “crime against humanity”

The following note appeared last week in the comment thread of a Facebook photo album posted by Davide de Lentinis. He’s an online retailer of farming and gardening products who lives in Salento, Puglia, where olive trees are dying in a seemingly uncontainable Pierce’s Disease (Xylella fastidiosa) epidemic. In the introduction to the album, he notes that the government claims there are only roughly 600 trees that have been affected. But according to news reports, thousands of trees have been afflicted — some of them more than 1,000 years old. His aunt Daniela comments that she has seen countless diseased trees near her home. Davide responds…

olive trees puglia xylella fastidiosaAristotle wrote that every nation has the government it deserves.

Aunt Daniela, if you could take a few photos early tomorrow morning, we’d all appreciate it.

There are still a few idiots who continue to claim that there are just a few dried up trees here in Salento. There are others who try to confuse the issues. And there are others yet who want to play the part of the environmental knight in shining armor: They brag that they are conducting experiments in regenerative agriculture. And there are even those who have used this tragedy for political gain.

Many others are circling in the skies above Salento like hungry vultures. They are waiting like chicks in the nest to gobble down funds intended to “prove” that it’s a problem with the soil!

Thousands of people are at risk of losing everything. Not just the olive growers but other members of the community, as well, like plumbers, electricians, and house painters.

But beyond the economics of this crisis, just think of the environment and the carbon dioxide that these trees are no longer assimilating in order to give us oxygen.

Right now, a crime against humanity is being committed in Salento.

Davide de Lentinis
(translation by Cantele USA)

Coldiretti begins planting olive trees as growers in Salento continue to wait for government action

pierces disease xyella pugliaThe Puglia chapter of Coldiretti, the Italian national confederation of farmers and food producers, has begun planting new olive trees in Puglia where olive groves have been decimated by Pierce’s Disease (image via Gianni Cantele’s Facebook).

As literally thousands of infected olive trees are being grubbed up to stop the spread of the recent Pierce’s Disease outbreak in Puglia, this week Coldiretti (the Italian national confederation of farmers and food producers) began planting new trees that it believes will be resistant to Xylella fastidiosa the pathogen that causes the disease.

(For background, click here for recent New York Times coverage of the crisis.)

In the face of government inaction, growers and bottlers are becoming increasingly concerned that too little is being done to save their livelihood and guarantee that future generations of Pugliese growers will be able to carry on in a tradition of olive oil production that spans millennia.

In the meantime, Coldiretti has begun working unilaterally to help revive the industry.

“Two symbols of hope for Salento olive growers,” wrote Puglia Coldiretti president Gianni Cantele on his Facebook this week, “a young Leccino [olive cultivar] planting and the Coldiretti flag. Today, we have shown that we represent real business owners who still believe in what they are doing.”

Even if you don’t speak Italian, please see this video. It shows not only the Coldiretti tractors as they campaign to raise awareness of the crisis facing Pugliese growers but also includes some shots of infected trees and new plantings.

New York Times coverage of Pierce’s Disease crisis

We began posting about the Pierce’s Disease (Xylella fastidiosa) crisis in Puglia late last year.

Today, the New York Times reports that “scientists estimate that one million olive trees in the peninsula, known as the Salento, are infected with the bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, a figure that could rise rapidly.”

“For Italy, which trails only Spain in annual olive oil production, the outbreak has forced a bitter bargain: To prevent the bacterium from spreading north, officials are trying to quarantine the outbreak in the lower half of the Salento, where most of the contaminated trees are, by carving a buffer zone that would serve as a sort of biological firebreak.”

Please click here for the article.

olive tree pugliaImage via Yellow Cat.

The cycle of life begins again in the vineyards as olive growers face a mounting crisis

pruning vineyards puglia 1“Signs of life as the vineyard reawakens,” writes winemaker Gianni Cantele on his Facebook earlier today.

“Pruning gives new vigor to the vines for a vintage that we hope will be high in quality.”

“I’m dedicating this images to all my friends who are olive growers. They are facing a true tragedy. And although they are surrounded by many who love and support them, they are also surrounded by the cowardice and the senselessness.”

He’s referring to the Pierce’s Disease crisis in Puglia, which is threatening thousands of olive trees.

As we reported a few weeks ago, the Italian government has been slow to act to combat this growing threat.