A new pilot olive tree nursery project, designed to increase productivity and quality, has been approved by the Common Fund for Commodities in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt.

In each of these four countries, pilot olive nurseries will be established, with the aim to raise income and tree productivity of olive farmers in these regions, through improved olive propagation. It is hoped that this objective will be met through demonstration of modern techniques, training in nursery management and plant propagation, promotion of native genetic olive resources and ongoing monitoring and supervision.

Each nursery is to have the capacity to produce at least 25,000 olive plants each year and will focus on using modern techniques to grow olive plants that produce a high yield. Local varieties, that are well adapted to their location in terms of environment, climate and soil type, will be grown in each of the four locations, with the plants being distributed to local farmers after propagation for a relatively small fee. Proceeds from the sales will be used to increase and broaden the services for nursery centers and farmers throughout the region.

All plants propagated in the nurseries will be grown using grafts, cuttings or in vitro methods from mother stock trees, so farmers may be sure of the plant stock they are receiving in a way that they may not have been in the past. Distributing plants from a certified source may also be helpful in managing cropping and implementing environmentally friendly agricultural techniques.

Along with environmental benefits, nursery propagation of olive plants can influence the economic performance of the entire production chain. By allowing safe conservation of genetic stock, as well as making use of new technologies and propagation techniques, nurseries have the ability to supply plants that are suitable for modernizing olive growing techniques. This combined with increased sustainability can translate to greater economic benefit.

With olive oil demand ever on the increase worldwide, it is hoped that a greater quantity and quality of olives propagated, in conjunction with development of farmers skills and education on the importance of obtaining plant material that is certified and good quality, will play a part in meeting this need.

The global olive growing area has increased by 22 percent in the past ten years, so if this rate of increase were to continue, more than 40 million trees would have to be produced each year. This level of production is far greater than current levels and it is hoped that nursery projects such as this will help to provide plants to meet the ongoing increase in demand.

The nursery project is a collaboration between the Common Fund For Commodities (CFC) and the International Olive Council, and is the second part of the completed project entitled “Conservation, Characterization, Collection and Utilization of Genetic Resources in the Olive.” The first part of the project has enabled conservation of various Mediterranean olive varieties.

The project will last for four years, at a cost of $1.7 million, after which it is expected that nursery managers will increase plant sales to more commercial rates.

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