Newly planted lavender at Alvelal Association member Fran Martínez Rayas' farm in his olive grove in Gor, Granada.

The honey olive grove, designed by Madrid-based land­scaper Javier Domínguez, is an agro-land­scape con­cept con­sist­ing of a poly­cul­ture sys­tem that com­bines olive trees and aro­matic bushes.

The aro­matic hedgerows have the capac­ity to act on water effects, serv­ing as a phys­i­cal bar­rier for col­lect­ing rain and runoff water, thus help­ing the olive grove to pre­vent flood­ing and soil ero­sion.- Javier Domínguez, land­scap­ing expert

It has been launched on the EU plat­form, Climate Innovation Window, which embeds the EU Horizon2020 project BRIGAID, aimed at effec­tively bridg­ing the gap between inno­va­tors, investors and end-users in resilience to floods, droughts and extreme weather.

In the Community of Madrid, plans are already under way to intro­duce honey olive groves, both to boost rev­enues and pro­tect the com­mu­ni­ty’s ecol­ogy.

See more: Horizon 2020

Domínguez’s grove plan pro­vides for the strate­gic posi­tion­ing of herbs, such as laven­der and rose­mary, grouped into blocks, between the rows of olive trees, accord­ing to a pat­tern which brings sev­eral ben­e­fits to the orchard.

“The aro­matic hedgerows have the capac­ity to act on water effects, serv­ing as a phys­i­cal bar­rier for col­lect­ing rain and runoff water, thus help­ing the olive grove to pre­vent flood­ing and soil ero­sion,” the land­scaper said.

“Situated in par­al­lel to the dimen­sion lines, herbs mit­i­gate water effects that trees can’t, while in the case of hill slopes, aro­matic bushes could be strate­gi­cally located to act as tra­di­tional ter­races,” he added.

The great advan­tage of aro­matic herbs is that they are mel­lif­er­ous, pro­duc­ing honey. This can be used as an addi­tional rev­enue stream in olive groves as well as increase bio­di­ver­sity.

Olive trees, whose flow­ers are small and unscented like other veg­etable species, are not honey plants and do not attract pol­li­nat­ing insects. They are mostly wind-pol­li­nated (or anemophilous).

Aromatic herbs, such as laven­der and rose­mary, on the other hand, attract bees and other pol­li­na­tors. These mel­lif­er­ous plants pro­vide the basis for an extra bee­keep­ing activ­ity.

“From honey pro­duc­tion, we can obtain very high rev­enues,” Domínguez said. “To this we can also add the extrac­tion of essen­tial oils as a valu­able source of income for farm­ers, con­sid­er­ing the high prices of this kind of prod­uct.”

“Provision and main­te­nance of ecosys­tem ser­vices, such as bio­di­ver­sity and pol­li­na­tion, have key impor­tance in the sus­tain­able adap­ta­tion to cli­mate chal­lenges, while the pro­duc­tion of a food like honey paired with the extra vir­gin olive oil can be seen as a fur­ther ben­e­fit for the pop­u­la­tion, espe­cially in depressed regions,” Domínguez added, show­ing the eth­i­cal side of his project.

Basically, the honey olive grove is an envi­ron­men­tally friendly setup that com­bines an extra type of crop pro­duc­tion and sur­plus prof­its with the cre­ation of an ideal ecosys­tem for ben­e­fi­cial insects, such as hon­ey­bees, which are essen­tial for the envi­ron­men­tal bal­ance, and still seri­ously endan­gered by pes­ti­cides

When it comes to the most suit­able type of farm­ing for this pat­tern, although there are no incom­pat­i­bil­i­ties, chem­i­cal-free and organic approaches are to be pre­ferred, keep­ing the prac­tice as a low envi­ron­men­tal impact cul­ti­va­tion method.

The aes­thet­ics should not be under­es­ti­mated either.

“We can choose dif­fer­ent aro­matic plants,” the Domínguez said. “My idea is to use laven­der and rose­mary in a pro­por­tion of at least 70 per­cent, and other aro­matic bushes such as thyme, sage, mint and so on for the remain­ing part, in order to enrich bio­di­ver­sity and to have the pos­si­bil­ity of pro­duc­ing dif­fer­ent honey vari­eties, but also to ensure dif­fer­ent flow­er­ing stages.”

“Beauty attracts peo­ple, mak­ing the [day-to-day lives] of locals more enjoy­able, while cap­ti­vat­ing tourists and trav­el­ers,” he added.

“Polycultures are cur­rently under con­sid­er­a­tion,” he con­tin­ued. “Some olive oil pro­duc­ers are already exper­i­ment­ing with laven­der between olive trees – farm­ers of Asociación Alvelal planted six dif­fer­ent types of bushes, three between the rows and three along the perime­ter, in a 9‑hectare (22-acre) plot.”

Domínguez explained that first, in 2015, he designed a ‘dehesa de miel,’ a honey graz­ing land, and then he devised the honey olive grove and vine­yard.

“I thought that the wine world would answer quickly, and then the olive oil sec­tor was the most inter­ested and the first to imple­ment the project, indi­cat­ing its respon­sive­ness and flair for sus­tain­able inno­va­tions,” he con­cluded.


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