Olive Quick Decline Syndrome in Apulia, Italy

The detection of the quarantine plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa on centuries-old Olive Tree In Apulia sparked a socio-environmental conflict among different actors.


Apulia has a significant heritage of centuries-old olive groves. In this social context, an olive tree is no ‘ordinary’ tree, they are not just perceived as a source of income central to local agri-food production, but take on an exquisitely symbolic and identity-making importance.

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Basic Data
NameOlive Quick Decline Syndrome in Apulia, Italy
SiteSouth-eastern Apulia
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Invasive species
Specific CommoditiesOlive Oil
Fruits and Vegetables
Project Details and Actors
Project Area (in hectares)532,900
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date10/10/2013
Relevant government actors- EU

- European Commission

- EFSA European Food Safety Authority

- MiPAAF (Minister of Agriculture)

- Apulia Region
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNuova Messapia


Forum Ambiente e Salute https://www.facebook.com/forumambiente.salute/

Spazi Popolari


COmitato per la Salvaguardia Ambiente e TErritorio della Valle d’Itria

The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseStrengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesDeveloping a set of alternatives to this phytosanitary emergency is and continues to be a matter of discord.

This process revolves around two main different views on how to deal and live with the bacterium Xylella Fastidiosa.

The first alternative is proposed by a large part of the scientific expertise and backed by some of the agricultural entrepreneurs. In their view, the only suitable option, for the moment, is to concentrate on the research for resistant/tolerant cultivars. It has been noted that some cultivars like "Leccino" and "Fs17" (also known as "Favolosa") demonstrated a resistance to the bacterium, therefore reducing the possibility for the plant to show symptoms of decline.

Local Social Movements strongly oppose this alternative, besides underlying the possibility for price speculations on these new resistant cultivars, Social Movements complain that nothing has been done in order to find a "cure" for the diseased tree.

Movements propose what they define as the "360°Approach", an approach that does not look exclusively at the pathogen, but to the entire plant system, highlighting the importance of researching on alternative or contributory causes (i.e. fungi, soil pollution, and overuse of agro-chemical products) with the ultimate goal of curing olive orchards instead of eradicating them or replace them with other cultivars.

In this regard, in addition to advocating for “good farming practices”, movements also support various remedies such copper and zinc-based bio-fertilizers, the use of inoculum of endo- and/or ecto-mycorrhizae and beneficial fungi and bacteria (to restore the soil microbiota), and a wide range of ecologically sustainable techniques which, according to them, represent a necessary alternative to pursue in order to find a solution to this plant disease.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The controversy goes on.
Sources and Materials

COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING DECISION (EU) 2015/789 of 18 May 2015 as regards measures to prevent the introduction into and the spread within the Union of Xylella fastidiosa (Wells et al.) (notified under document C(2015) 3415)
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Relazione sullo stato di attuazione delle Misure di contrasto alla Xylella fastidiosa
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Report Accademia dei Lincei
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The olive quick decline syndrome (OQDS) diffusion in Apulia Region: an apparent contradiction according to the agricultural model
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Susceptibility of Olea europaea L. varieties to Xylella fastidiosa subsp. pauca ST53: systematic literature search up to 24 March 2017
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Isolation and pathogenicity of Xylella fastidiosa associated to the olive quick decline syndrome in southern Italy
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Xylella CoDiRo Blogspot
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Xylella Report
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Info Xylella
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Emergenza Xylella
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Media Links

Salviamo gli Ulivi
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EFSA Channel - Xylella fastidiosa: Can science find a solution?
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prof.Xiloyannis - L’estirpazione degli olivi non ferma la "Xylella". Nardò 27/02/2016
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Other Documents

The effects of pollarding
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Eradication Plan
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Affected olive tree trunk section Even to a trained eye, the visible effects of Xylella can be misinterpreted with those of plant mycosis such as Verticillium Wilt.
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Xylella resistant cultivar grafted on an infected olive tree
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"Save the spittlebug" One of the contested measures is the "Decreto Martina", an ordinance regarding mandatory phytosanitary treatments (the use of pesticides) aimed to reduce the population of Philaenus spumarius, insect vector of the bacterium.
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"Zona avvelenata" Poisoned Zone It is not that rare to encounter these signs in south-eastern apulia. Enviornmental Movements claim that soil pollution may play a role in the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome. On the other hand,, experts often say that the bacterium Xylella affect every soil, regardless of the agricultural techniques used.
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Meta Information
ContributorChristian Colella, University of Milano-Bicocca
Last update11/04/2019