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Lavandin Introduced in Spanish Olive Groves to Prevent Erosion

Lavandin is the most recent crop being planted in Andalusia to help prevent erosion, promote biodiversity and provide farmers with supplemental income.

Apr. 15, 2019
By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas

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Lavandin, a close rel­a­tive of laven­der, has been intro­duced in Andalusian olive groves as a com­ple­men­tary crop that can help fight ero­sion, sup­port bio­di­ver­sity and foster sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.

The effort is part of European project, Diverfarming, and has been led by a team from the University of Córdoba, one of Diverfarming’s European part­ners.

The effort is part of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 project that began almost two years ago and addresses food secu­rity, sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture and sil­vi­cul­ture, bio-econ­omy, marine research and water man­age­ment.

See more: Olive Tree Cultivation News

One of the pro­jec­t’s main goals is to pursue crop diver­si­fi­ca­tion, low input farm­ing and the use of man­age­ment prac­tices that can help improve soil fer­til­ity, pre­vent ero­sion, increase bio­di­ver­sity and pro­mote the per­ma­nence of young people in rural areas.

Olivares de miel, or honey olives, is a sim­i­lar effort that is taking place out­side of Madrid. It also seeks to pre­vent ero­sion and increase bio­di­ver­sity by plant­ing aro­matic shrubs, includ­ing laven­der.

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Erosion, caused by soil loss due to water run-off damage over crop­lands sub­ject to tra­di­tional till­ing, is a prob­lem for olive groves that crop diver­si­fi­ca­tion attempts to min­i­mize. Significant ero­sion and low amounts of organic matter are two of the main causes of run-off damage.

Planting aro­matic shrubs also helps attract animal species to olive groves, which con­tributes to bio­di­ver­sity. Crops, such as lavandin, can also gen­er­ate com­ple­men­tary income for olive grow­ers and mit­i­gate the eco­nomic impacts of poor har­vests and off-years.

In Andalusia, Diverfarming works with the University of Córdoba to over­see a 7.4‑acre exper­i­men­tal olive grove that is planted with Picual olive trees. Several dif­fer­ent crops have been intro­duced in between the tra­di­tional 12-by-12 meter spac­ing of the olive trees, which are located in in Torredelcampo, Jaén.

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The University of Córdoba’s research team mon­i­tors the impact of crop diver­si­fi­ca­tion on ero­sion and pro­duc­tiv­ity, along with its envi­ron­men­tal impact and green­house gas seques­tra­tion.

Lavandin is a hybrid of laven­der and spike laven­der, with an aroma more intense than that of laven­der. It was first cul­ti­vated during the late 1920s and is now grown in many parts of Europe.

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It is easier to cul­ti­vate and pro­vides higher yields than laven­der. Lavandin’s costs and yield per acre makes it a prof­itable option for olive grove alleys.

Prior to plant­ing lavandin in the olive groves, the research group vis­ited Brihuega, which is widely con­sid­ered the epi­cen­ter of Spanish laven­der cul­ti­va­tion, to ascer­tain whether it would be suit­able to cul­ti­vate in the olive groves.

The researchers deter­mined that the super and grosso vari­eties were appro­pri­ate for the Andalusian exper­i­men­tal olive grove.

Lavandin oil, often a replace­ment of laven­der oil, is used in per­fumes, hygiene prod­ucts and cos­met­ics. It also works as an insect repel­lent.

Before plant­ing two rows of grosso vari­ety lavandin this spring, the researchers planted saf­fron last autumn. Saffron has gas­tro­nomic and cos­metic appli­ca­tions and its veg­e­ta­tion cover can help hold the land down, min­i­miz­ing the impact of rain over the ter­rain.

Due to their var­i­ous uses, plant­ing lavandin or saf­fron in tra­di­tional olive groves pro­vides farm­ers with addi­tional income as cash crops. Their cul­ti­va­tion can also pro­vide olive grow­ers with access to European Union grants, which are dis­sem­i­nated to farm­ers in the region who prac­tice sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural tech­niques, one of which is pro­mot­ing bio­di­ver­sity.

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