Phylloxera of our times? New outbreaks of Pierce’s Disease in Puglia and Corsica

olive trees puglia xylella fastidiosaAbove: desiccated and dying, olive trees affected by Pierce’s Disease in Salento, Puglia. The photo was taken by Davide de Lentinis, a young man from Salento who has called the crisis and the Italian government’s inaction “a crime against humanity.” Click here to read his stirring Facebook post, which I translated today for my client Cantele.

Late last month, Wine Spectator reported on a newly discovered outbreak of Pierce’s Disease (Xylella fastidiosa) in Corsica, France, where the bacterium is afflicting myrtle bushes.

Yesterday, Italian news outlets reported that authorities have discovered a new outbreak in Puglia, where there is already a vast quarantine area.

According to a report published yesterday, EU officials are holding an emergency meeting in Brussels this Friday to discuss an expansion — a “redefinition,” as they call it — of the quarantine or so-called “buffer zone” (zona cuscinetto).

Even though officials tend to downplay the crisis, thousands of olive trees — some of them a thousand years old or more — have been affected in Puglia. And there is no end in site as growers continue to grub up diseased plants.

In a Facebook chat on Friday with grape grower and Coldiretti Puglia president Gianni Cantele (my client), he told me that he “shudders to think” what will happen if the bacterium travels beyond the buffer zone.

Today, I translated a chilling Facebook post by a young agricultural entrepreneur in Salento that came to my attention via Gianni’s Facebook.

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

Click here for the post. And may G-d help them… and us.

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