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Olive and Olive Oil Production

"The immortal olive tree, which can live for thousands of years, provides great benefits to humankind in nature. The effort to make the best use of the blessings of the olive tree began with researching this unique plant. The characteristics of olive trees that have existed in nature for thousands of years have been identified, and local olive tree varieties that are beneficial and productive have been multiplied by caring for them to complete their adaptation to the region. Collaborating with producers, gardens with productive olive tree species have been established. Sustaining this activity is our intense effort to provide academic guidance for the nationwide achievement of product branding and the widespread adoption of impeccable olive oil production techniques in Turkey."

"How can we increase olive and olive oil production?"

"Despite the global olive sector producing approximately 3 million tons of olive oil and 3 million tons of table olives, about 90% of both products are manufactured by Mediterranean countries. These countries also consume 75% of both products, leaving only 25% for the rest of the world to import and consume.

Even though this fruit tree is highly valuable, its production is limited, and the only way to increase it is by establishing new olive orchards.

However, if the production goal is to focus on producing table olives and/or olive oil as a basic food, it is sufficient to plant a high-yield variety in the olive orchard.

On the other hand, if the aim is to produce functional food, i.e., obtaining products with high added value, maintenance tasks take precedence in existing olive orchards, while in a new facility, the variety and its pollinator become the most crucial factors."

Olive Grove
Image by Vincent Eisfeld

"What is the impact of temperature and water level on the olive tree?"

"One of the two limiting factors for the cultivation of olive trees is low temperature (-7 °C), and the other is the high groundwater level. In our country, which is the homeland of the olive tree, every region suitable for olive cultivation should be recommended as a local variety, as at least one olive variety has completed its adaptation with its unique major and minor component composition.

Local olive varieties, along with their designated pollinators, should be grown in the olive orchard in a way that preserves the species' functional food characteristics. Therefore, when establishing the orchard, the focus should be on quality. An order for a correctly named, single-trunk, one-year-old seedling should be placed at the orchard planning stage.

In orchard establishment and annual maintenance, the most important issues are pruning, disease and pest control, fertilization, and irrigation in sequence. Olive leaves love sunlight, but the branches detest it. Therefore, attention should be paid to this issue when shaping the tree and during annual pruning. This requires pruning experience and expertise."

How should pest control be carried out in olive cultivation?

"Timely and on-site management of diseases and pests is crucial, especially for quality and yield. Bordeaux mixture, which can be used in both organic and conventional farming, is particularly important for protecting against fungal infections. In the fight against the olive fruit fly, a preventive approach should be chosen rather than individual combat. Lures and kaolin are among the most important materials that can be used for this purpose.

Regardless of the chosen method, an efficient irrigation system should be implemented that ensures irrigation is done during the necessary periods.

The nutrient needs of the olive tree depend on the physical and chemical structure of the soil. Therefore, the nutrients necessary for high-quality fruit are absorbed from the soil through the root system. In case of nutrient deficiencies in the tree, they should be supplied either from the soil or through foliar application.

Weed control in the orchard is carried out to reduce competition for water and nutrients. For this purpose, the soil is cultivated with agricultural tools and broken down, mixed with the soil. However, instead of incorporating weeds outside the canopy projection of the trees into the soil, it is more effective to mow them at a certain height to protect the soil from erosion."


How long should the shoots be in olive trees?

When the plant starts to receive water in spring, the dormant buds on the old shoot from the previous year, including the apical bud, become active, and the shoots on the olive tree start to grow. These newly formed shoots carry the buds that will bear fruit next year. Therefore, it is important for the shoots not to be too short. The flower buds on the shoot from the previous year start to bloom in April-May, and inflorescences appear. In the olive tree, which is largely partially self-fertile, attention should be paid to its flowering at the same time as planting a pollinator in the garden.

If the climate is favorable, the number of defective flowers is low, there are no problems with pollination and fertilization at the time of flowering, and 1-3% of the opened flowers remain on the branch until harvest, a good yield is obtained. Unfortunately, the impact of climate is a significant factor in agriculture. There are limited but not nonexistent measures that can be taken against this.

After the olives are harvested, what should the process be like?

After pollination and fertilization, the stage at which the seed in the olive fruit begins to harden is the most critical time for the olive tree to bear fruit next year. This is because it is the physiological differentiation stage where the decision is made whether the buds on the fresh shoots formed this year will become flower buds for the next season. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the watering and feeding of the tree during this period. The morphological differentiation stage in the flower buds occurs approximately 90 days before the flowering of the next year.

The harvesting time of the fruits may vary depending on the purpose of use for table olives, where they can be green, pink, or black at different ripening stages, while obtaining high functional olive oil with a target minor component requires the fruits to be between the green and pink ripening stages.

The oil inside the cells of the fleshy part of the olive fruit comes out with the cell sap when the cells are damaged. Once outside the cells, it oxidizes upon contact with oxygen. The cell sap is also infected by bacteria and fungi in the air.

Cell damage occurs when the fruit is struck during harvesting. If we liken these cells, which make up the fruit flesh, to millions of stacked water bags, the smallest impact will cause thousands of cell "water bags" to burst like a water balloon, and the liquid inside the cells will come out. The fruit that has been struck needs to be processed within 24 hours at most.


Are the harvested and fallen fruits the same in olive harvesting?

The fruits are harvested from the tree in the green ripening stage to be processed into olive oil and placed in plastic crates. It is important not to mix the fallen fruits from the ground with the harvested ones. It is crucial to deliver the crates filled with olives to the processing facility without leaving them under the sun or in the rain.

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