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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
Name of conflict:Olive Quick Decline Syndrome in Apulia, Italy
State or province:Italy
Location of conflict:South-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 commodities:Olive Oil
Fruits and Vegetables
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Project area:532,900
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:10/10/2013
Relevant government actors:- EU
- European Commission
- EFSA European Food Safety Authority
- MiPAAF (Minister of Agriculture)
- Apulia Region
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Nuova Messapia
Forum Ambiente e Salute
Spazi Popolari
COmitato per la Salvaguardia Ambiente e TErritorio della Valle d’Itria
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
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
Impacts of the project
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-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:Developing 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The controversy goes on.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

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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References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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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Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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
Contributor:Christian Colella, University of Milano-Bicocca
Last update11/04/2019
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