Places and districts, such as Castellana and the Sauli zone, where Xylella made its appearance 10 years ago, are already a hell. Blackened logs, secular trees ghosts, signs of rebirth immediately suppressed by the bacterium; even the trees on the small walls are not saved. From the highest point of Gallipoli’s greenhouse, looking at Taviano, Matino, Racale is an extent of blackened olive groves. On one side the sea and the Ionic coast who call crowds of people, on the other side the landscape devastated by the infection. All around, Mountains of trash, everywhere: on the hill, in the countryside, among the streets, in the pine forests who are part of the regional park. Glass and plastic bottles, diapers, tissues, eternit, concrete pieces, tires of all dimensions: a huge amount of waste. The disintegration of the countryside get people used to decay. The researcher who’s escorting us says: I fear that Salento, in eight-ten years will be all like this.
In the most hit zone, two extraordinary people, Debora Bornazzini ( from Turin ) and Pier Antonio Rosi ( surgeon from Brescia ), in love with Salento so much to invest here their savings, have no intention to surrender. They saw dying one by one the monumental trees, they cared them in every possible way, they planted pomegranates and flowers, they disconsolate register the mediocre behaviour of people cleaning their home discharging the rejects in the countryside but, slowly, between a debate and another there is an idea in their head: an appeal to young, not only Italian researchers, to fight against Xylella and also an alliance, in preparation, with smart farmers against who dirties the countryside and against conniving administrations who surrendered to this immorality.
The bulletin of the bacterium march marks Puglia’s map with new settlements of the infection and alarms everywhere. The fear in Monopoli seems to be ceased. The band of outbreaks widens around Brindisi with Torchiarolo, Cerano and Cellino San Marco. Thousands of trees destined to death.
A never lived and knew feeling spreads to most of Salento people. A feeling halfway between the faith in old praxis ( “we always did like this” ) and the void waiting for an enemy perceived as diabolic, but still mostly unknown, so it’s not identified actually. But there’s also, spread, a regenerated emotion among those who were not been affected directly by the plague. Many people, this year, decided to collect the olives from trees, anticipating the time of the collection compared to the last years, avoiding olives to fall on the ground. Some oil mills opened, desiring vitality against death announced by the epidemic.
A new plan has been ideated by the politics and bureaucracy. Yet another, with the poor Silletti trying to witness a state authority reduced to the minimum. The region President Emiliano is in silence. It seems that one of his counsellors is still not convinced that the olive trees death is caused by the bacterium. Eradicate is anti popular. But opposing is not enough to save Puglia’s and other worried regions olive groves.
Politics lost his word, and those who pronounces are worthless. But it created already a huge damage, determining a dangerous immobility. In October 2013, when the presence of the bacterium was hypothesized by Giovanni Martelli, a plant pathologist, the severe measures provided by European and Italian protocol, which are the abatements of sick trees, could have contained the spread of the bacterium confining it in southern zone of Gallipoli. Two years spent without doing anything expanded in a dramatic way the settlement zone and also the band of restraint and now this years present a well heavier bill. Moreover, Puglia and Italy suffer European states pressing, worried about our passivity.
But the inefficiency of regional politics and of the Ministry of agriculture, keeps causing dramatic consequences for our olives. It’s true that Tunisian and North African olive oil is not necessarily worse than our, but accepting this means Puglia abandoned consciously every purpose of further renewal and qualification of our olives. Squeezed between Spanish people and the olive oil coming from the other Mediterranean sea shore, the risk is the irrelevance with the loss of richness, experiences and hopes.
The olive tree, despite its diffusion, is still a not much studied tree species, by the genetic and molecular point of view. Since just few years we are looking for doing something, but still in a confuse and fragmented way. The word Biotechnologies, unfortunately, keeps raising cultural resistances, with many people opposing to all studies and scientific insights recalling to recombinant DNA. So, because of politics’ and social sectors conservatism, uncritically stuck on products’ typicality, we say no to every change proposed by science.
Everything described above put an ideological veto on every genetic improvement of traditional varieties , supported by the informations the genomic can give us. So we keep knowing very little about the genetic behaviour of olive trees varieties, and what we know is more fruit of personal intuitions than the coherent result of research programs. This behaviour forces the pauperization of our agriculture and of the same scientific research who can find the solution between the genetic study of 1500 varieties to many problems, also to the quality and to the elimination of many dangerous chemical treatments, dangerous for the human health. In this conditions the two varieties deadly attacked by Xylella at the moment, Ogliarola and Cellina di Nardò, are destined to disappear in a wide Puglia area. To have an idea of how politics considers science it’s sufficient to remember that two years ago Bari university asked for some researchers units to hire on a fixed term to employ against the bacterium. They are still waiting for an answer. So, this is the faith in mediocrity, widespread in different scopes, helping Xylella, a not invincible bacterium ( scientist say so ), but has found a fertile environment by us.