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Super-intensive olive tree cultivation: from the fertilizers of the past towards the biostimulation of the future


Super-intensive olive tree cultivation: keys to its biostimulation

Spain’s olive oil production accounts for three-quarters of total EU production and represents more than half of worldwide production.  According to the forecasts of the International Olive Council (IOC), olive oil production in 2018/19 in member countries of this official body will be more than 2,200,000 t (+1.1%). Spain, with a figure of 1,550,000 t heads this ranking of producer countries with a production that is 23.4% up on last year’s campaign. Spain’s figures are significant in a scenario in which the rest of the European countries have suffered a sharp decline in production figures. 

Spanish agriculture has a long tradition and extensive experience in olive tree cultivation, Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura and Andalusia being the Spanish regions with most olive trees according to data provided by the Agencia de Información y Control Alimentarios (Spanish Food Information and Control Agency)Andalusia alone has more than 60% of the total hectares given over to olive tree growing in Spain, Jaén and the upper Guadalquivir River basin being the most prominent production areas.   

For the most part, this situation can only be comprehended within the context of the boom in super-intensive olive tree cultivation that has taken place over the past few decades. Technological progress, improvements in mechanisation and, above all, the quest for better levels of cost-effectiveness for producers, explain the gradual move towards super-intensive production systems that has occurred in Spain since the nineties.  Indeed, according to data provided by Agromillora, a company that specialises in the production and sale of fruit trees and olive trees, super-intensive olive tree growing quadruples the benefits of traditional cultivation systems. In round figures, a hedgerow olive tree plantation can reach yields of 2,400 kg of olive oil per hectare compared to the 530 kg of olive oil per hectare obtained in traditional cultivation systems.  

These are plantations that are totally mechanised in all of their phases, with high-density cultivation and low labour costs. Super-intensive olive tree growing requires rapid entry into production which means that trees undergo maximum demands for the whole of their lifecycle. In this situation the application of treatments to help olive trees overcome high levels of stress is highly recommendable. 

Seiland is a biostimulant developed by Seipasa to activate soil biological processes and to enhance the development of the plant’s root system. Seiland is designed to help plants to overcome situations of stress, to generate new root tissue and to spread over a greater surface area in order to obtain necessary nutrients. 

Seiland for super-intensive olive tree growing

The use of Seiland in super-intensive olive tree cultivation also helps improve the quality of the olive oil obtained. The results of the most recent test conducted by Seipasa in the province of Córdoba analyzed the acidity and total polyphenols, which are two key variables when defining the quality of olives at harvest. The test was carried out in plantations of Arbequina olive trees, one of the most widespread varieties for super-intensive olive tree cultivation in Spain, with an average age of 6 years. 

 

Graph 1. Quality of fruit at harvest: acidity.

 

As shown in graph 1, the application of Seiland on the treated plots significantly reduced the acidity of olives by 30%, thereby improving the quality of the olive oil. Acidity measures the quantity of free fatty acids in olive oil. The lower the acidity of the olive oil is, the better its quality. 

In economic terms, producing olive oil with a lower acidity also has an effect on its market rating and thus on the sales price at origin. Taking as the reference the prices of the Olive Oil Price Observatory (Infaoliva)a producer can sell a kilo of olive oil at a price that is between 3% and 15% higher depending on the improvement in its rating.

 

Graph 2. Quality of fruit at harvest: total polyphenols

The results of the same test on super-intensive olive trees showed that the application of Seiland on the treated plots increased the total polyphenols content of olives by 14% (see graph 2). This is a significant aspect as polyphenols are natural antioxidants that protect the fatty acids in olive oil from oxidation, improving its quality.

What is your experience? What biostimulation treatments do you use for super-intensive olive tree cultivation? Contact our experts if you would like more information