The spectre of an agricultural catastrophe hangs over southern Italy with the spread of a bacteria that is devastating olive tree groves. Xylella fastidiosa kills plants by preventing them from absorbing water. It is a threat not just to olive trees but also to a range of nut and fruit-producing plants and the European Union is monitoring the outbreak nervously.
The Italian authorities have taken measures to contain the outbreak in the Apulia region but the disease has already been detected in at least one location north of a specially-created buffer zone.
Complicating matters further, there are disagreements over the causes and treatment of this devastating disease. As Hans von Der Brelie found out when he went to the affected region there are even claims that the Mafia are involved, using the natural disaster as a pretext to boost property development.
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In the southern Italian city of Bari, Euronews met with Giuseppe Silletti, commander of “Corpo Forestale Puglia” – the forest guard forces based in Apulia. He is in charge of coordinating the fight against the “olive tree killer”, a quarantine bacteria called Xylella fastidiosa. In order to contain the disease, the European Commission and the Italian government impose a “cordon sanitaire” crossing southern Italy from coast to coast. – click on the link above to see the full bonus interview with Commander Silletti in Italian.
Research on Xylella fastidiosa, the “olive tree killer” bacteria, has be intensified, says Giancarlo Biaso, a Lecce-based agronomist – click on the link above to see the bonus interview in Italian.
Euronews interviewed the head of the research unit at the Bari-based Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection, at the frontline in the fight against Xylella, “the olive tree killer”. The top research priority right now should be the screening of all 1,500 olive tree varieties known world-wide, in order to find natural resistances against the disease – click on the link above to see the full bonus interview in Italian.