The first significant investigation on the soil quality of olive groves across the Mediterranean basin has been undertaken by a group of European research institutions and large olive oil producers.
Backed by the European Union, the Soil O‑live project will analyze the impact of land degradation and pollution on olive groves over the next five years.
The project will also investigate the impact of olive groves on biodiversity and ecological function and study the link between soil and olive oil quality and safety.See Also:New Tool Measures Soil-Atmosphere Interactions to Optimize Farming Practices
The E.U. and the University of Jaén, which is coordinating the initiative, have signed the €7 million research agreement, which is part of the Horizon E.U. research programs.
“After more than 50 years of intensive agriculture application, the environmental situation for many olive groves across the Mediterranean region is quite dramatic in terms of land degradation, biodiversity impoverishment and functionality loss, which may have already impacted the quality and safety of olive oil, one of the most important commodities produced in Europe,” the project introduction reads.
By deploying a multi-disciplinary approach extended to all significant olive-producing countries, the project “will perform the first rigorous diagnostic of the environmental situation of olive grove soils at a broad scale, considering the most important areas of olive production in the Mediterranean region and its relationships to olive oil quality.”
Assessing soil quality and the tendencies associated with intensive agriculture are considered crucial for their impact on food systems and food security.
The subsequent steps of the Soil O‑live project will focus on restoring soil and ecological function, fostering biodiversity and improving the olive grove health throughout the region. Its supporters believe these steps will translate into an improvement for the final product.
The last step of the research will center on the definition of “rigorous ecological thresholds that allow implementing future clear norms and regulations to design a novel certification for healthy soils in European olive groves.”
The project will bring together researchers from several fields of investigation, such as environmental sciences, biological sciences and ecology, agriculture and forestry.
Apart from the olive and olive oil research department at the University of Jaén, dozens of research institutions from Portugal, Italy, Greece, Poland, Germany, Switzerland and Morocco will also participate in the project.
Deoleo, the world’s largest olive oil-producing and bottling company, is also participating in the investigation.