Italian grapevines not affected by Xylella strain

The Italian viticulture industry has been boosted by findings that grapevines are not affected by a strain of the Xylella pathogen. [Roberto Verzo/Flickr]

Grapevines could now be removed from the list of plants that are subject to movement restrictions. EURACTIV Italy reports.

A strain of the Xylella fastidiosa pathogen, present in the Italian region of Puglia, and known as CoDiRO, does not affect grapevines. The University of Bari and the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) carried out tests on the strain, the results of which could allow commercialisation of plants from the area to be resumed.

After 12 months of investigation and tests carried out on different varieties of grapevines, the CNR’s Institute for Sustainable Plant Protection (IPSP) and the University of Bari’s Department of Soil, Plant and Food Sciences announced the outcomes of the tests on the CoDiRO strain, which is currently devastating Puglia’s olive crop.

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According to the research, the bacterial strain responsible for the contagion in Salento, Puglia, has no effect on vines, which tallies with what has been revealed by other investigations carried out in the infected areas. It is therefore not necessary for grapevines to be subjected to the plant protection measures that currently prohibit the movement of 150 plant types, to prevent the spread of the disease from Puglia to other parts of Italy and Europe.

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The risk of contagion necessitated a ban on imports from Pugliese nurseries by countries such as Algeria, France and Morocco, as did the outbreak of cases of Xylella found in Corsica, even though the strain detected on the Mediterranean island is different to the one found in Puglia. The outbreaks recorded in Corsica are still in the process of being investigated, while the tests carried out by the CNR and the University of Bari rule out the fact that the Pugliese grapevines can spread the CoDiRO strain.

The Minister for Agriculture, Maurizio Martina, commented that the investigation’s findings have already been sent to the European Commission and will be discussed by the EU’s Standing Committee on Plant Health during its next meeting in Brussels on the 17 and 18 September. During that meeting, the grapevines could be removed from the list of CoDiRO-affected plant species that are subject to further regulation.

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At the same time, Martina announced that, “the investigation’s findings will be published and disseminated to third-party countries, because recently there has been a lot of speculation that has damaged the nursery and viticulture sector, not just in Puglia. “The minister added that, “Through our embassies, we will invite those countries that have imposed a ban on our vines to reconsider their decisions.”

“This is an important result for the Italian vine growing sector,” commented Coldiretti, an Italian agricultural organisation, adding, “but above all, the scare stories that have caused so much damage to the industry can now be put to bed.” In the province of Lecce alone, around 70% of total average turnover has been lost since 2013.

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