After the death of all olive groves in southern Apulia due to Xylella fastidiosa, the Salento Bio company, fearing the desertification of its land, opted to cultivate crops that suit the soil and weather conditions in this part of Italy.
Crate commercialized by Salento Bio
"We finished planting the last 40 hectares this summer, and now boast 150 hectares destined to organic prickly pears. We are looking to add another 50 next spring. We planted the yellow, red and purple varieties. Rows are arranged in an unusual 'wave' pattern so plants can access more sunlight and to slow down the gusts of wind typical of this area. We planted 666 plants for each hectare with a 6x2.5m layout," explains Piero Tunno, agronomist and co-founder of Salento Bio, a business network set up in 2015 that has turned the Xylella epidemic into a true occasion for growth.
Piero Tunno, agronomist and co-founder of Salento Bio
Prickly pears are plants that withstand drought more than others and seem to adapt well to stony soils such as those in Salento. "Plants start producing from the third year after transplants. We already have the first results from the first hectares. The last pallets of fresh fruits have been sold a few days ago to the big retail channel, ending the 2022 season with quotations that never dropped below €1.50/kg. Feedback from external operators, especially French ones, was excellent. We are currently patenting a new machinery that makes harvesting easier, removing spines from both the fruits and the leaves."
Purple prickly pear juice.
"After selling all first-choice fresh fruits, we are currently busy processing and selling our juices with no added sugars available in the three colors. The 250 ml bottles are relatively new on the market and we are promoting them to various Italian and European retailers. Feedback seems promising so far."