Sunday, August 2, 2015

Olive Oil, Ancient Olive Groves and Pathogen Ecology

Nothing goes without organic virgin olive oil on edible culture. Mostly grown in Italy or Spain and proudly packed in Australia.

For some time the ancient gnarled old olive groves (of Apulia/ southern Italy) have been under attack. It is claimed that they have a bug (Xylella fastidiosa) that causes the centuries-old trees to dry out. The olive quick decline syndrome  or ‘olive ebola’ in Puglia comes at a time when the world consumption of the oil has dramatically increased. Demand and drought increase prices.

The scenic groves are protected as cultural heritage (source). The trees are cultivated in the Mediterranean and elsewhere as an inter-generational project.

Fearing the bacterium might spread to other areas and horticultural crops, the authorities declared war on the infected plants, clear felling the trees. Bulldozing, slash and burn and pesticides are seen as the solution, a “precision intervention ” of “surgical” uprooting, soil ploughing and use of select insecticides when uproot the infected plants and use pesticides on affected crops and across wide buffer zones." (source)

It is feared that they "are going to transform the whole region into a cemetery." (source)

A convenient single cause explanation (the bug) makes for a good enemy in combat. Other voices "suspect indiscriminate use of herbicides and anti-heartworm sprays in the area are damaging the trees, not to mention harming the health of locals (such as the glifosate-based Roundup Crop Prevention made by Monsanto, which is a suspected carcinogen). Moreover...the plan against Xylella involves the use of chemical substances that have been declared toxic by EFSA itself." (source)

Monoculture as an agricultural practice leads to pests and diseases. An increase in the biodiversity of the agricultural ecosystem would keep pathogens and pests at bay. Banning the sale of imported exotic plants through regulation could minimize risks. It is also said that the bacterium was introduced via human-mediated dispersal of oleander and coffee plants from Costa Rica and Honduras.

Further speculation has it that the land is eyed by 'the highest bidder', real estate,  tourism and large scale industrial agriculture might want to grab this cultured landscape.

And the cicadas will become silent.

Minimizing the Spread of Disease in Italy’s Famous Olive Trees, 09.02.2015
What Will Save Salento’s Olive Trees?, 31.03.2015
The famous olive trees of Puglia are ravaged by disease – here’s how we can save them, 11.04.2015


What is Xylella fastidiosa?
Nature: Italian scientists vilified in wake of olive-tree deaths 

And in Australia:
Police called in as couple aged in 70s fights to keep banana plants in Darwin, cops $765 fine

Vincent van Gogh, Olive Grove 1889,
Vincent van Gogh, Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background, 1889

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