Researchers Evaluate 12 Olive Varieties for Drought Tolerance

Cultivars from eight countries will be evaluated to see how they adapt to drought and heat in Andalusia.
By Máté Pálfi
Jun. 21, 2023 18:30 UTC

Finca La Pontezuela and the University of Córdoba have joined forces on a research project inves­ti­gat­ing olive vari­eties well-adapted to drought.

On the 5‑hectare plan­ta­tion, researchers will eval­u­ate 12 olive vari­eties from Morocco, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Spain for the next five years.

The researchers will assess them based on their abil­ity to adapt to weather extremes, includ­ing low rain­fall and high tem­per­a­tures, which are becom­ing increas­ingly com­mon due to cli­mate change.

See Also:New Olive Variety Will Revolutionize High-Density Plantations, Company Claims

Based on their eval­u­a­tions, researchers aim to deter­mine the pos­si­bil­ity of plant­ing the olive vari­eties across Spain and poten­tially renew the agree­ment to con­tinue research.

Juan Antonio Gómez-Pintado, Fina La Pontezuela’s pres­i­dent, said the project rep­re­sents the first-of-its-kind project in Spain.

It is the first time that a research project of these char­ac­ter­is­tics has been car­ried out in Spain, which unites a pub­lic uni­ver­sity and a com­pany, and which aims to study the adap­ta­tion of olive vari­eties from other coun­tries to cli­mate change for sub­se­quent imple­men­ta­tion in our coun­try,” he said.

This research will make it pos­si­ble to advance in the knowl­edge of the tol­er­ance of dif­fer­ent olive vari­eties to water scarcity con­di­tions, as well as the pos­si­ble mech­a­nisms involved,” added Carlos Trapero, a researcher from the University of Córdoba’s agron­omy depart­ment.

After two years of severe drought and for­est fires, stud­ies con­cern­ing adapt­ing dif­fer­ent crops to hot­ter and drier con­di­tions have become cru­cial for Spain’s agri­cul­tural indus­try.

Despite recent rain­fall, Spain’s state mete­o­ro­log­i­cal agency (Aemet) said the coun­try received 16 per­cent less rain in the cur­rent mete­o­ro­log­i­cal year, which began in October 2022, than the pre­vi­ous one.

Olive farm­ers across Andalusia, the world’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, have told Olive Oil Times that con­di­tions in the groves this year are the same or worse than last year.

As olive oil grow­ers pray for rain in September and October, the Spanish gov­ern­ment has passed a €2 bil­lion aid pack­age for the agri­cul­tural sec­tor to improve water infra­struc­ture and pro­vide direct aid to ranch­ers and farm­ers.

Farmers argue that finan­cial aid is nec­es­sary to deal with Spain’s his­toric drought in the short term. Still, research into cli­mate adap­ta­tion strate­gies remains crit­i­cal to the sector’s future suc­cess.

Research is also under­way in Andalusia and the Canary Islands, a vol­canic arch­i­pel­ago off the coast of north­west Africa, to study the impact of the lack of chill hours on olive devel­op­ment and the oil qual­ity of dif­fer­ent pop­u­lar Spanish vari­eties.

The flurry of new research projects comes as Carmen Crespo, Andalusia’s min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture, water and rural devel­op­ment, said the olive sec­tor must become more resilient.

We have a drought that is no longer tem­po­rary; it is struc­tural in our region and, of course, affects the olive grove, our main crop,” she told Olive Oil Times in March.


Related Articles