The Threat of the “Black Spot” Worries Farmers All Over Europe

Environment - October 6, 2023

The European Union Takes Remedial Action to Safeguard the Citrus Fruit Market of the Old Continent with Particular Attention to the Italian Citrus Fruits, Marketed All Over the World

The Italian citrus industry has always been a symbol of excellence, with the production of high-quality oranges and other citrus fruits representing a fundamental component of the country’s culture and economy. However, this precious resource has been put to the test by the spread, especially in recent months, of the disease known as Phyllosticta Citricarpa, or more commonly referred to as “citrus black spot”. In response to this threat, the European Union has adopted a series of measures to limit the spread of the disease and protect the Italian and European citrus market.

Phyllosticta citricarpa is a pathogenic fungus responsible for the “black spot” that affects oranges and other citrus fruits, manifesting itself through the appearance of necrotic lesions on the fruits, leaves and even on the branches of the trees that produce them. Its spread occurs through the spores of the fungus, which are dispersed by wind, rain and insects. The disease not only compromises the quality and quantity of crops but can also damage the reputation of the Italian citrus industry on the global market as well as that of any other country involved in production and marketing.

Citrus farming plays a crucial role in the Italian economy, especially in the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Puglia, but the spread of Phyllosticta citricarpa has already caused a significant drop in production and a loss of income for growers and all the related industries. The reduction in fruit quality affects the competitiveness of the Italian citrus industry, jeopardizing the employment and livelihood of thousands of families involved in the cultivation and processing of citrus fruits.

The European Union has recognized the urgency of addressing the threat posed by Phyllosticta citricarpa and has taken several actions to preserve the Italian and European citrus market by establishing, for example, strict phytopathological standards regulating the movement of citrus plants between countries Member States and to and from third countries. These measures have been taken to prevent the introduction and spread of the disease to new areas. The European Union has promoted surveillance and monitoring programs to promptly identify outbreaks of Phyllosticta citricarpa, thus enabling rapid and effective activation of measures to control and contain the spread of the disease.

The EU has encouraged the adoption of integrated control practices, which include the use of biological, chemical and cultural methods to manage the disease. This approach aims to reduce the use of pesticides and preserve the ecological balance of the agricultural ecosystem. The European Union has also invested in research and development programs to integrate new citrus varieties that can resist at Phyllosticta citricarpa, into traditional production and to improve cultivation and disease control techniques. The European Commission has also promoted, in recent months, the education and training of farmers on identifying the symptoms of the disease, as well as on the agricultural practices necessary to prevent and manage it.

The threat represented by Phyllosticta citricarpa cannot and must not be underestimated, as it puts the Italian citrus industry and the entire national and continental economy at risk. The European Union is demonstrating a concrete commitment to counter the spread of the disease through measures that aim to protect the quality of citrus fruits with particular attention to those produced in Italy, and to preserve their competitiveness on the global market. Collaboration between institutions, growers and researchers is essential to face this new and important challenge so that future generations can be guaranteed the possibility of enjoying the delights of all citrus fruits produced in Europe and Italy for a long time.

Alessandro Fiorentino