Xylella fastidiosa: how Italy has tackled the problem No 39 Most Read Story 2017. First published: Saturday 14 October, 2017
Dr Stefano Sogni, from Zelari Nurseries in Italy, has spoken exclusively with GTN Xtra to reveal how his country is successfully tackling Xylella fastidiosa. He says: "You need to get to know your enemy to fight the enemy."
Here's what Dr Sogni says:
"The disease is not new to the professional: it has been the acknowledged agent of the Grapes Pierce Disease (PGD), known in California as from the early days of the 19th century.
"Relatively temperature sensitive (and with the most of the host plants being frost sensitive too, but not all), it seems to be relegated in some specific areas, reason for still under investigation (the most likely being the above quoted sensitivity to low temperatures).
"In Italy, it is restricted to a very specific small area (8000 ha) in Salento, Apulia, still after six years of its outbreak.
"Professionals in Italy (Zelari amongst these) have been aware of this disease since the early stages (2011) of the outbreak, even before it became known to the majorities of the Plant Market operators. The disease is confined in 8000 hecatars in an area in Salento, in Apulia, and it has been confined there since the outbreak.
"All plants hit by Xylella had been immediately destroyed. And moving host plants from Salento is totally, and underline totally, forbidden.
"The rest of Italy is certified by our Ministry of Food, Agricultural and Forestry as Xylella-free.
"Professionals have been taking a serious conscious approach to avoid further diffusion of this threat. No plant material has been taken from the area (as forbidden by law anyway) nor from anywhere near the area where the disease is confined. This, has we feel and are very responsible for the environment and our industry: in Tuscany, we have 90.000 ha of olive crop, and we are world renown wine makers, Chianti one of the many; we cannot afford the diffusion of Xylella. In Pistoia, one of the heart of the nursery activity in Europe, plants business feeds 5.000 families: an outbreak would completely kill trade and cause dramatic microeconomy consequences. We must take the maximum possible care. And we are.
"ARPAT, the government regional phytosanitary authority for Tuscany, has been running routine random inspections as from 2014. In 2016 they did 1204 inspections, visiting 516 nurseries, including Zelari in several occasions. They also inspected 301 olive crops and 387 landscaping sites and public gardens. They collected 3,633 samples of 54 plant varieties plus 649 samples of vector insects. Total 4,312 samples: no track of infection. And inspections still continue.
"Most of the Nurseries, like we at Zelari, are also running their own regular tests.
"This threat cannot be underestimated. Responsibility cannot be fully finally dropped on the British nurseries. We are all fighting it together. We are totally on the same side of DEFRA and HTA."
Photos taken at Zelari Piante today, 16th October 2017