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Prof. Dr. Mücahit Taha Özkaya

"Everything About Olives and Olive Cultivation"


He graduated from the Department of Horticulture at Ankara University, Faculty of Agriculture, and began his career as a Research Assistant in the same department.

He completed his Master's thesis on "Propagation of Olive (Olea europaea L.) by Tissue Culture" at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, affiliated with C.I.H.E.A.M., under the supervision of Prof. Miltiadis Vasilakakis and Dr. Spiros Lionakis.

He obtained the title of Agricultural Engineer.

He pursued his doctoral studies in the Department of Horticulture at Ankara University, Institute of Science, on the topic of "Effects of Different Practices on the Anatomical and Biochemical Structure of Cuttings in Some Olive (Olea europaea L.) Varieties" under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Menşure Çelik.

He earned the title of Doctor of Agricultural Engineering.

With comprehensive studies on olives and olive cultivation, he was promoted to the title of Associate Professor.

Continuing his efforts for our country, the homeland of olives, to reach the deserved position in olive and olive oil production, he currently holds the title of Professor.

For detailed curriculum vitae information,

please refer to the PDF document.

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Zeytinle Buluşma

"How did your encounter with olives happen, and how did it develop?"

Meeting with Olive.

"After obtaining my license, it was the suggestion of the department chair at that time. We had just become new assistants. 'Do you want to work with olives?' he asked. 'There is no one working on olives,' I accepted. It was the year 1986... I completed my master's degree at the Mediterranean Studies Center in Chania on the island of Crete. We published studies in Turkey.

My doctoral thesis was also on olives, and there was no place left unexplored for the research. I am a member of the Advisory Board of the International Olive Council. We conducted studies for the National Olive and Olive Oil Council. Our university took part in the Advisory Board membership of the Turkish Delegation of the International Olive Council and is an institutional member of the National Olive and Olive Oil Council. Ankara University Faculty of Agriculture also owns a technology development zone company that focuses solely on olives."

"Informing the producer."

The university's mission includes this. I was also part of it during my postgraduate studies. We focused on the problems of the industry, conducting intensive research. In the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM), research councils were established in 2006 and 2008. We conducted studies that not only identified the problems but also provided solutions.

For instance, Gemlik olive varieties were widely planted everywhere with the support given in 2006. However, in 2008, complaints from producers regarding the "Gemlik type" were received. Our research revealed that the 'Domat type' was grafted onto this variety, and the 'Gemlik type' swelled due to graft incompatibility. We conducted grafting studies on ten different 'Gemlik type' varieties, identified the incompatible type, and informed the producers.

Furthermore, in a thesis research, we observed an increase in the hairs covering the stomata on olive leaves during drought. For example, the 'Ayvalık type' protects itself differently. We provided information to producers on such topics. All these efforts, including our ongoing work, aim to provide solutions to the problems faced by producers and similar research initiatives.

Adam Holding Zeytin

"Are our olive producers, farmers, and industrialists aware of your work?"


Are you knowledgeable about every aspect of olives?

"Product research"

Yes, I am closely following it. The Chamber of Agricultural Engineers organizes a congress every five years where we discuss the industry's and producers' issues and solutions. The last one took place in 2020, and despite the pandemic, we attended with masks.

In olive cultivation, ensuring product quality and efficiency is crucial. The genetic pool and endemic adaptability of the olive tree play a significant role in achieving quality. Some olive tree varieties have been propagated due to their superior characteristics and productivity, while others unfortunately remain as local varieties. This genetic resource for our olive tree varieties should be subject to more comprehensive research and conservation.

The economic value of olive oil and its content with minor components that prevent diseases in the human body elevate this product to the status of liquid gold. We should not forget the consumption of the product as table olives. In this aspect, it is an indispensable strategic product for both the country's economy and public health.

Is it superior to other oils?

For example, hazelnut oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and similar oils are all obtained from seeds. Processing these products and obtaining oil from them is relatively easy.

However, olive oil is not a seed oil; it is the only fruit oil that exhibits the characteristic of fruit juice. It contains minor components such as polyphenols and aroma compounds. The oil is found not in the seed but in the fleshy part we consume. Therefore, olive oil cannot be obtained in the same way as seed oil, and you cannot produce both types of oil in the same factory. Olive oil is produced in specialized facilities and processes. It contains phenolic compounds, tocopherols, vitamin A, iron, calcium, and hydrocarbons. Obtaining the oil without losing these compounds requires proper harvesting of olives, pressing at the right temperature, and using the correct techniques and hygiene in machines during the extraction process and storage stages. These factors ensure the product is flawless and beneficial. Considering these characteristics, we can say that olive oil surpasses other oils.


What is the superior characteristic of olive oil compared to other oils?

Zeytin yağı

"What is the current situation regarding the quantity and quality of olive oil production in our country?"

"Production capacity, quality, and solution."

"Our production is around 200 thousand tons, while our consumption is 160 thousand tons, with the remaining being exported. We need to increase this quantity. However, due to the detailed processes in olive oil production, we cannot compete with other oils in terms of cost. Additionally, the small size of our olive groves increases the cost. In this regard, public support is needed for the producer. In this situation, what we need to do for competition is to focus on boutique and premium production with rare varieties and a unique gene pool in our country.

In Spain, there are cooperatives so large that one produces 300 thousand tons of olive oil. We produce 200 thousand tons in 1700 factories. In Spain, extensive olive groves are cooperativized, and the machines are massive. Like Italy, we should also produce high-quality premium olive oil. To achieve this, in 2006, we explained the necessity and importance of adding an article in the Parliamentary Commission, had it added to the report. Thus, we created the classification of boutique extra virgin olive oil. One of our main goals has always been to categorize extra virgin olive oil into different groups. One of these groups is the production of high-quality olive oil for health. This production series can be presented in centers selling food supplements, not in supermarkets. Currently, some of our pharmacies sell high-quality edible olive oils. You can find such quality olive oils on Amazon for $100 per liter. In this regard, in addition to our country's normal production, it is also crucial for our country to produce food supplement quality products for health."

Implementing an increase in production.

"Despite its high value, the only way to increase the production of this valuable fruit tree is to establish new olive orchards.

There is approximately 3 million tons of olive oil and 3 million tons of table olives produced in the global olive industry. Approximately 90% of this production is carried out by Mediterranean countries. These countries consume 75% of the product, leaving only 25% for the rest of the world.

If the goal is to increase production solely as a food source for table olives and olive oil, it is sufficient to plant olive trees with high yield in olive orchards.

However, when aiming to achieve functional food with high added value alongside production, the variety of the olive tree and its pollinator become the most crucial factors, in addition to maintenance tasks."

Zeytin Değirmeni

How can we increase olive and olive oil production?

Image by Cristiano Valadar

"How will the studies you conduct with olive and olive oil producers continue?"

"Two-way production strategy..."

"The activity of making the best use of the benefits provided by the immortal olive tree, which can live for thousands of years, has begun with the exploration of the characteristics of this unique plant. Thus, by identifying the characteristics of olive trees that have been present in our geography for thousands of years, distinguishing useful and productive varieties, and propagating local olive tree varieties that have completed their adaptation to the region, efficient olive tree gardens have been created in collaboration with producers.

Throughout our country, our implementation with producers aims to produce high-quality food supplement products from trees with rare gene pools for small gardens and to popularize the production of table olives and olive oil with high yield olive tree varieties for large gardens.

Sustaining this activity is our intense effort to provide guidance at an academic level for achieving product branding nationwide in Turkey and disseminating flawless olive oil production techniques. This way, our country will be able to compete much more strongly with its competitors in this field."

Establishing a Mobile Laboratory.

"The Olive Academy, the sole private sector organization dedicated to R&D in the field of olives, continues its intensive efforts to guide producers at an academic level in the areas of product branding and the widespread adoption of impeccable olive oil production techniques.

If we achieve this goal, our country will be in a much stronger position to compete with its counterparts in this field.

As Olive Academy, our R&D work aims to create a mobile laboratory system that can immediately analyze oils by obtaining oil using flawless olive oil production techniques in the geography where olive varieties with existing regional and diverse genetic resources are found in our country. The envisioned system is not a small machine; it involves placing the system inside a caravan to make it mobile. Studies on how this can be accomplished are ongoing. Olive production is carried out in 30 provinces in our country, with approximately 100 regional olive varieties. This opportunity will enable us to guide producers accurately and quickly in terms of the superior aspects of olive varieties without any evaluation errors based on the process. We are already conducting this study, but we cannot find the same opportunity everywhere we go. Bringing out the characteristics of regional olive varieties accurately creates an opportunity for the region to develop without wasting time with the right moves. 'We did this for Antalya, next is Kilis. Later, it will continue for our other regions...'"

"Do you have R&D work? If so, at which stage is it?"

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