Not with the aim of killing the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, but to cure the olives suffering the “syndrome” of CoDiRo (ie a set of symptoms, which is not the same thing as a disease). CoDiRo is the rapid drying out of the plant, a phenomenon that local farmers in Salento have known about, empirically, for at least 10 years.
An experimental trial of a treatment, duly authorized by the Ministry, is being carried out by Fabio Ingrosso (Copagri, President Lecce, Vice President Puglia, National Councillor Copagri and Unasco), Francesco Lops and Antonia Carlucci (plant pathologists, University of Foggia) and the 12 farms that have made themselves and their trees available to the University of Foggia researchers who are testing the treatment.
(In the photos: the olives undergoing the treatments can be seen to be reacting positively).
Fabio Ingrosso doesn’t hide his optimism: “The olive trees that showed evidence of the syndrome, are responding well. And only two months have passed. We are only at the third treatment and visually recording a net improvement. Our goal is not to cure the Xylella, but to strengthen the trees – weakened by years of the use of chemicals – to feed the soil and restore organic matter, so that the trees respond, even in the presence of the bacterium”.
“Planning of the research – says Ingrosso – officially started on 16 March, 2015, with field testing to begin in early May. We made all the necessary inquiries and we got going.”
“The permissions were those needed for Professors Lops and Carlucci to use their products to start running experimental activities in the field. Waiting times for permissions were those normal for these cases.
We also forwarded, twice, to the competent authorities, our request for official permission to collect samples for laboratory analysis. But to date there has been no response!”
So you have not been able to determine for yourself if the trees you’re working on are positive for Xylella?
“No, we are not allowed to take samples and run tests on them. But the technicians of the IAMB of Bari came and they took the necessary samples.”
Have they provided the test results?
Who else participating in the trial?
“The partnership between the University of Foggia and Copagri also benefits from the valuable collaboration of some technicians among agronomists and agricultural specialists. Last but not least, the owners of the olive trees are collaborating directly in our experimental protocol.”
What products are you using?
“The main purpose of our research is to identify which product or combination of products will allow the olive trees to return to their proper state of vegetation.
Do you also intend to do laboratory work? And, if so, how will you do that, if you don’t have permission for the testing of samples?
“For now, the trial is taking place mainly in the field with biocompatible products. Laboratory activities have been limited to assessing the sensitivity of pathogenic fungi and bacteria to those same products under laboratory conditions (assay sensitivity / inhibition in vitro).
Not having received the necessary authorizations, the samples are not being taken, but directly in the field one can evaluate various vegetational parameters such as indices of chlorophyll and flavonoids.
How are the trees reacting?
“Considering that the trial only started a few months ago, evaluating the effectiveness of the products used in reducing and/or minimizing the symptoms of CoDiRo is premature, though in many cases the plant responses to treatments seem promising.”
In cases like these, who oversees that everything is done according to the rules?
“ASL personnel for the province of Lecce have been in the fields in which our experiments are in progress, assisting in the work, checking the products used and the method of administration, and ascertaining that all the safety and health rules have been followed.”
When will you be able to say for sure if your treatments have been successful or not?
“Since this is field experimentation, and with arboreal plants, the treatment cycles need to be repeated at least two or three times. Although results may be available at the end of each test cycle, it is essential that the scientific criterion of repeatability is fulfilled so we can tell if one or more products are effective in reducing/containing the rapid dessication syndrome. For the moment, anyway, no particular problems have been revealed. Of course, if we could verify in the laboratory the extent of the pathogens after treatment, we could count on greater certainty.”
(translated by Leila Carlyle)