`Climate Change Effects on Vines Should Alarm Olive Oil Producers - Olive Oil Times

Climate Change Effects on Vines Should Alarm Olive Oil Producers

By Costas Vasilopoulos
Apr. 22, 2013 21:43 UTC

According to a study pub­lished in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in less than forty years, three-quar­ters of the wine pro­duc­ing areas on Earth will not be suit­able for vine farm­ing due to the effects of cli­mate change. In the Mediterranean region where the cli­mate change impact is expected to be heavy, vine­yard areas may shrink up to 68 per­cent and sim­i­lar reduc­tions are antic­i­pated for Australia, Chile, South Africa and California.

The study pre­dicts that soon enough those vine­yards will move to other ter­ri­to­ries that will have the con­di­tions to grow the grapes, like north­ern Europe, north­west­ern America and areas of cen­tral China.

Similarly, the weather alter­ations could heav­ily affect olive oil pro­duc­ing areas, espe­cially in the Mediterranean basin. Olive trees are tougher than vines and can thrive on many dif­fer­ent ter­rains and under var­i­ous weather con­di­tions. They give olive oil with lit­tle effort and care through­out the year, often with­out much water­ing. This is why coun­tries like India, Libya and Australia are plant­ing more olive trees; it is rel­a­tively easy to grow them and they can yield a profit. In India for exam­ple, olive trees can be three times more prof­itable than wheat.

Nevertheless, with the weather becom­ing warmer and warmer, olive groves on high hills or slopes will prob­a­bly suf­fer less, but groves located on low alti­tude areas or plains could become totally unpro­duc­tive. There are already signs of the oncom­ing change, with this year’s har­vest in Spain crip­pled by the drought and the phe­nom­e­nal weather vari­a­tions.

So as the south­ern ter­ri­to­ries of Europe become warmer will they still be able to retain their olive trees? Will olive oils pro­duced there carry the same attrib­utes and be of the same qual­ity as they do today? Will north­ern areas step into their shoes and be the olive oil pro­duc­ers of the near future?

Either way, get­ting a high qual­ity olive oil requires that sev­eral dif­fer­ent fac­tors are present at the same time: good trees, mild weather, and proper farm­ing. Also the ground mor­phol­ogy and the mois­ture lev­els of the area play an impor­tant role in shap­ing the oil char­ac­ter­is­tics.

However, European olive oils in fifty years from now could be very dif­fer­ent in terms of their qual­i­ties and organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics, and also of their places of ori­gin. Emerging play­ers of the indus­try like China and India with vast lands for cul­ti­vat­ing olive trees could chal­lenge European pro­duc­ers, let alone if they find an unex­pected ally in the rapidly chang­ing weather. Traditional olive oil pow­er­houses such as Spain, Italy and Greece take note; change is on the way.


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