Outside of xylella: Proposal for the regeneration of the Salento area

More than a decade after the bacterium was discovered xylella and with its associated phytopathy (Olive Tree Rapid Desiccation Complex or CoDiRO), 48 associations operating in the Salento area adopted a unified document aimed at alerting institutions and research bodies to the critical issues of the strategies and interventions carried out so far. stop environmental, landscape and agronomic crisis occurred in the decade under consideration.

The analysis proposed by the Salento Association document takes into account both the relevant epidemiological dynamics and the political-managerial framework in which the mentioned interventions were implemented, and proposes a new and different approach which some would not hesitate to call naive, to a problem already known today.

From a scientific point of view, the document immediately points out, also based on the data provided by Crea and Cnr of Bari during the parliamentary hearings held in 2023, an aspect intended to be refuted how many of them in recent years stubbornly condemned to death, especially at the cultural and communication level, olive trees “positive” for the xylella bacterium: i.e. many plants continue to grow and produce even when “infected”. It should be added that many of the plants in question, although dried in the above-ground part, are present living root system which enables their revegetation, which is essential from an ecosystem point of view, as it counteracts the negative effects of the absence of organic matter in the soil, the meteorological-hydrogeological cycle, erosion and ultimately desertification.

Furthermore, the document does not question the role of the xylella bacterium within CoDiRO, even taking into account the fact that until 2013the year of the “discovery” of the bacterium, the desiccation of olive trees was attributed mainly to pathogenic fungi and that recent researches have confirmed the extreme airborne contagiousness of fungal spores: but since, as is known, the institution and part of the Scientific world trace it exclusively to xyella, which is the cause of CoDiRO, the Salento association with right they ask what are the causes of drying plants with a negative test for bacteria such as the dried olive trees in the Gallipoli area, of which only two percent were “positive” in 2013.

Moreover, the arithmetic clearly tells us that the xylella affair was managed according to communication strategies similar to those that the events of recent years have brought before everyone’s eyes. The olive trees that have been declared “dead” by some media and some politicians amount to around 22 million: perhaps too many, considering that this figure corresponds to the total number of olive trees present in the three provinces of Salento (Lecce, Brindisi, Taranto) and that of these 22 million, at least three million are Leccino cultivars and therefore resistant to plant diseases, while the plants are still alive, healthy and productive, reaching ten percent in the Lecce area, sixty percent in the Brindisi area and even 75 percent in the Taranto area. You only need to take a trip to Salento to realize this.

But there is more: if the legislation requires the monitoring of two laboratory tests for each olive tree, there is no evidence from any source that 44 million tests have been carried out; indeed, as the inhabitants of the affected provinces well know, many removals were decided upon simple visual tests which, with the possible exception of the diopter measurement of responsible agronomists, have little scientific value. In any case, only 1,200,000 analyzes were performed over ten years, resulting in, false positives aside, 14,000 “infected” trees with an average rate of 1.18 percent (ranging from 4.5 percent in 2016 to 0 .15 percent). percent in 2023). A fact for everyone lends itself to much reflection and speculation: in 2018, out of 450 olive trees uprooted in the area affected by TAP, only three were found to be infected by laboratory tests.

Xylella bacterium causes drying of olive trees © Getty Images

The math doesn’t add up, and doubts about the numbers warrant reservations about the reliability of other, more complex elements of plant disease management. From this perspective, some considerations seem important: cultivar coratina in a closed environment it was the most resistant to the xylella bacterium, while in the open field it shows undoubted traces of desiccation, which is not missing in favolosa cultivars: a simple mistake or a more or less strategic underestimation of other and more complex pathogenic causes?

And again: the real dynamics of phytopathy clash with the dominant narrative, both from his point of view Speed (well below the twenty kilometers per year reported by the mainstream media, if we consider that the journey from Gallipoli to the borders of the Bari region took more than fifteen years), and also in terms of its spread. A single initial outbreak or many scattered throughout the territory, if already in 2014 the olive trees in Veglie, Trepuzzi and Oria were characteristic, while large areas of Gallipoli were still unscathed?

Olive trees, which have been declared “dead” by some media and some politicians, number around 22 million © Michele Emiliano

Call back some important facts which characterized epidemics of desiccation of Salento’s olive trees already in the eighteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century (one for all: the observatory set up by the Giolitti government was closed in 1910 because the desiccation stopped as unpredictably as it began) and remembered the possibility of an endemic, perhaps centuries old , without a conflict of interest, and therefore just as naive, have been saying for some time: namely that the etiologic complexity must be identified and described causes of desiccation, monitor and combat bacterial and fungal factors, take into account agronomic variables, soil condition, biodiversity conditions, plant adaptability to pathogens, support protocols validated by scientific publications and even empirical practices that allow the restoration of vital stumps and greened trees , support the study of biorhythms, to reconsider virtuous farming. And not just to recite the “de profundis” of the olive trees, which, by denying the evidence of the current resistance of the plants and minimizing the contrasting strategies of coexistence used so far, continue to legitimize mass explants.

By the way, explants that are widely supported financial measures which actually end up favoring them replacing centuries-old and monumental olive groves super intense plants destined to eliminate the environmental and landscape heritage, to accelerate the spread of possible future plant diseases and to be increasingly unsustainable and counter-economical due to its agronomic characteristics in the area among the first, in Italy, to use chemical products in agriculture and among the last for water availability and biodiversity.

After all, the 48 associations that signed the document are only asking for it use a little common senseabandoning questionable and controversial protocols, also because they portend irreversible effects, and promoting treatment of plant diseases aimed at agroecological regeneration of the Salento region through a prudent and systemic approach that takes into account its specific identity and culture.

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