The presence of the gall wasp since 2011 and the drought of the past two years, together with the flood of May 2023, have caused problems for the cultivation of the prestigious Marrone di Castel del Rio Igp.
"Production in our chestnut groves has been dropping since 2011 due to the presence of the gall wasp, which does not kill trees but slows down their development. Organic control based on the introduction to the groves of parassitoid Torymus sinensis solved the situation only in part. In addition, we have also been dealing with drought over the past two years: trees suffer and husks fall down," reports Monia Rontini from Il Regno Del Marrone, a company that she runs together with her father Sergio.
Monia Rontini and her husband Angelo Orselli at the fair in Sana in 2023
"The flood was the final straw, as it caused severe damages. Centuries-old trees of outstanding value were swept away by the water and landslides. Private and state roads were interrupted by debris, so we could not reach the trees for a long time. Our organic groves are located in the Tuscan-Romagna Appennine in the Castel dl Rio municipality at 400 to 700 meters asl."
The landslides due to the flood in May 2023
"Some roads were fixed by the Municipality, but private ones are the responsibility of the owners. There is a tender promoted by the Municipality to help chestnut growers fix the roads inside the groves, with compensation for those whose groves were damaged by landslides. The compensation is a 60% grant. The Municipality made available €25,000, plus there are another €15,000 from the Bcc of Ravenna, Forlì and Imola."
But it is not enough. Rontini hopes the government will do its part. "We are already trying to fix the roads where possible. Costs however are high, so we are hoping to solve the problem by next year thanks to the funds made available."
Landslide caused by the flood in May 2023
At least 80% of the company production is destined to the fresh-produce market. "We are worried about this year's production. The rain during blossoming, the drought and the wind must not be underestimated. Weather extremes generate the conditions for the perfect disaster. But we will not give up."
Despite the lower yields, the producer reports that quality is excellent. "Harvesting will start around October 10th, so our fresh chestnuts and processed products will then be available directly from the company or via our website."
The chestnuts of different grades and quality are destined to different uses: larger ones are sent to the fresh produce market, while smaller ones are dried, used to make flour or for other products.
Chestnut flour, dried chestnuts and chestnut spreads are only some of the products made by the company. "We have our own warehouse, so processing is local. Our products are certified Gluten Free, Organic, Vegan and Raw Vegan."