Land Suitability


Olive Trees: Environmental Requirements

The conversion of wild olives (as a system of production) would be recommendable only where the environmental condition would be suitable for olives. That is why it is important to define the required conditions in order to map them.

It is widely known that olives are mainly grown around the Mediterranean basin. Typically the Mediterranean climate is characterized by warm and dry summers and mild winters. Rains do occur mainly in winter. Olives do require well drained soils to adequately grow. Soils should have a depth of cultivation of at least 0.4/0.5 m and pH ranging from 6 to 7.5. Olive trees are adaptable to a wide range of soil types and can be grown in siliceous and calcareous soil. However, heavy soils (very clayish) or sandy soils or more generally soils prone to water logging should be avoided. Medium fertility soils (having 1-2 % of organic matter) receiving an average rainfall of at least 500- 550 mm per year may guarantee good productions. Olive tree can withstand as low as temperature of -8 or –9 C as long as it is not subjected to them for many hours provided that trees are not at the active growing period. Conversantly, during vegetative stages, olives are sensitive to low temperatures, which may cause damage to twigs, branches and even to the trunk. Relatively low temperatures in winter are anyway important for this crop, because during this season, olives have to satisfy their chilling requirement (that may slightly vary from cultivar to cultivar) in order to be able to produce good amount of inflorescences and flowers in spring. Unfavorable weather condition may also compromise the production, in particular cold and rainy weather during flowering.

Collection of olive cultivar at ARI (Tarnab - NWFP) - Click to enlarge.However, even within the Mediterranean climate it is appreciated a certain degree of variability especially concerning factors such as temperatures and rainfall (total amount and distribution), which allows the cultivation of olives from North Africa (e.g. Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria) to the surrounding of Garda Lake in North of Italy. Although large part of the Mediterranean region is perfectly suitable for olives, in semi arid or arid countries the cultivation is possible only in oasis or when water for irrigation is available, while, in more temperate areas, low temperatures are representing the main limitation factor for the crop. In many new producing countries (Argentina, Australia and South Africa) olives are grown in areas enjoying a climate very close to the Mediterranean one. However, in many cases, olives were able to originate a good production even if grown in slightly different conditions that those typical of the Mediterranean region, especially through the introduction of specific cultivars and, above all, when adequate irrigation practices were put in place. The capability (or the incapability) of some cultivars to adjusting or adapt themselves to slightly different growing condition than those typical of their country of origin, not often exhaustively documented in manuals and books, could pose, in newly producing countries, threats as well as opportunities.



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