`California Agriculture Magazine's Spotlight on Olive Oil - Olive Oil Times

California Agriculture Magazine's Spotlight on Olive Oil

Jan. 26, 2011
Lori Zanteson

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Sparked by huge changes in the California olive indus­try in recent years, California Agriculture mag­a­zine devoted a spe­cial issue, Growing big­ger, bet­ter: Artisan olive oil comes of age,” to this indus­try which has set a sub­stan­tial foun­da­tion for future growth and prof­itabil­ity. We thought it was a good topic for us,” said man­ag­ing edi­tor, Janet Byron. I’ve been here twelve years and we’ve had very lit­tle with olives, specif­i­cally olives grown for oil which is new to California.” The goal of the quar­terly, peer-reviewed jour­nal which reports research reviews from the University of California and its Agriculture and Natural Resources divi­sion is to take the sci­ence and trans­late it into an acces­si­ble form,” explains Byron. We love pulling together a pack­age of arti­cles that will be use­ful to peo­ple.” The issue presents a series of arti­cles that exam­ines the impact of the recently cer­ti­fied sen­sory taste panel, the non­na­tive, inva­sive fruit fly, and super high den­sity plant­i­ngs.

Sensory Panel

UC Cooperative Extension sen­sory analy­sis panel enhances the qual­ity of California olive oil,” writ­ten by Paul M. Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension and Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne, writer and edu­ca­tor exam­ines the role of the sen­sory analy­sis panel in the state’s olive oil indus­try. The last two decades have marked the revival of California olive oil with pro­duc­tion at an all time high and pre­dicted to dou­ble in the next few years from 800,000 to 1.6 mil­lion gal­lons. Many California olive oils have earned recog­ni­tion for their excel­lence in both domes­tic and global com­pe­ti­tions. The qual­ity of the oils is largely due to the sen­sory analy­sis panel. Only the most rudi­men­tary qual­ity test­ing on olive oil is cur­rently being done by lab­o­ra­tory chem­i­cal analy­sis; a group of human beings fol­low­ing strict tast­ing pro­to­cols is now the stan­dard tool for detect­ing, iden­ti­fy­ing and quan­ti­fy­ing the many pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive attrib­utes of olive oil.”

The arti­cle explains how sen­sory analy­sis of olive oil, which took root in the late 1980s, now plays a key role in how olives are rated for mar­ket grade, help­ing grow­ers and proces­sors pro­duce a higher qual­ity prod­uct. Sensory eval­u­a­tion is also used to char­ac­ter­ize olive oil fla­vors attrib­ut­able to cul­ti­var (vari­ety), fruit matu­rity, ter­roir, irri­ga­tion, tree nutri­tion, pest dam­age, fruit han­dling and pro­cess­ing meth­ods.”

A trained sen­sory panel pro­vides an objec­tive eval­u­a­tion of olive oil that can be used to enforce label stan­dards that pro­tect con­sumers, pro­duc­ers, and proces­sors from fraud in the indus­try.” The International Olive Council stan­dards for extra vir­gin and vir­gin are glob­ally rec­og­nized.

Olive Fruit Fly

Three arti­cles delve into the olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae), which plagues olives world­wide and was first detected in California in 1998 in the Los Angeles Basin. Understanding the sea­sonal and repro­duc­tive biol­ogy of olive fruit fly is crit­i­cal to its man­age­ment” explains that while the table olive can’t tol­er­ate dam­aged fruit, infes­ta­tion lev­els of 10% or more may be fine for olive oil, espe­cially if the olives are processed quickly. The impact is espe­cially clear in Butte County whose high fly den­si­ties resulted in crop rejec­tion by table olive proces­sors. Olives grown in Butte are now crushed for oil and are increas­ingly super-high-den­sity plant­i­ngs, which seem to be less con­ducive to olive fruit fly infes­ta­tion.

In order to pre­dict where and when the fly would most likely become a sig­nif­i­cant pest, UC researchers and Cooperative Extension farm advi­sors, California Department of Food and Agriculture Pest Detection and Emergency Project per­son­nel, county agri­cul­tural com­mis­sion­ers and pest con­trol advis­ers set up mon­i­tor­ing sites through­out the state in 2002. Data was col­lected from a total of 28 sites in 16 coun­ties between 2002 and 2006.

As a result of this data, researchers are pro­duc­ing mod­els deter­min­ing when olives are most sus­cep­ti­ble to fruit fly attack and how fly pop­u­la­tions respond to cli­matic con­di­tions. The work will con­tinue to develop tools to fur­ther apply this infor­ma­tion toward more effec­tively man­ag­ing the olive fruit fly.

Given the lim­i­ta­tions of insec­ti­cide-based pro­grams, and the num­ber of res­i­den­tial and road­side olive trees, the next arti­cle, Biological con­trols inves­ti­gated to aid man­age­ment of olive fruit fly in California,” dis­cusses how bio­log­i­cal con­trol — the impor­ta­tion of nat­ural ene­mies — has poten­tial to sup­press olive fruit fly pop­u­la­tions. California sci­en­tists have doc­u­mented the nat­ural ene­mies of the olive fruit fly with the inten­tion of import­ing them from other coun­tries and then deter­min­ing the effec­tive­ness and lim­i­ta­tions of the intro­duced species. The release of sev­eral par­a­sitoid species have been approved by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) with per­mits pend­ing on two oth­ers.

The ben­e­fits appear to out­weigh the risks of the release of nat­ural enemy species that non-tar­get species may be attacked. The impor­tance of bio­log­i­cal con­trol is grow­ing in regions where pes­ti­cide use is less desir­able or restricted.

California’s Central Valley is known for its blaz­ing hot sum­mers. High tem­per­a­ture affects olive fruit fly pop­u­la­tions in California’s Central Valley” shares results of field stud­ies of the Valley’s olives, which are com­monly infested by the olive fruit fly and show lower trap counts dur­ing the mid and late months before they pick up again from September to November when tem­per­a­tures are cooler. The flies rely on ade­quate water and car­bo­hy­drate sup­ply to fly and repro­duce.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps may be use­ful for grow­ers and con­sul­tants to deter­mine if they can tem­porar­ily stop insec­ti­cide treat­ments dur­ing peri­ods in July and August. But, it should be war­ranted that fac­tors other than tem­per­a­ture influ­ence the like­li­hood of the fruit fly being a prob­lem in a par­tic­u­lar orchard such as local water sources or even morn­ing dew. On the flip side, fol­low­ing these maps will help indi­cate the region’s his­tory of low tem­per­a­tures that are con­ducive to fruit fly activ­ity and sur­vival in a par­tic­u­lar area. In addi­tion, under­stand­ing the depen­dence of the fruit fly on water and car­bo­hy­drate dur­ing high tem­per­a­tures can help deter­mine the best ways to bait the pests in the effort toward olive fruit fly con­trol.

Super High Density

The early 1990s intro­duc­tion of the super high den­sity (SHD) hedgerow sys­tem for olive orchards meant decreased pro­duc­tion costs while main­tain­ing high qual­ity. Two arti­cles are devoted to this sys­tem. The first, Mediterranean clonal selec­tions eval­u­ated for mod­ern hedgerow olive oil pro­duc­tion in Spain” explains that the mechan­i­cal har­vest­ing machines are most effi­cient when tree size is lim­ited, mak­ing a cul­ti­var adapted to this sys­tem desir­able. Three cul­ti­vars: Arbequina i‑18’, Arbosana i‑43’ and Koroneiki i‑38 were field tested by the Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentaria (IRTA) in an irri­gated, SHD plant­ing sys­tem in north­east Spain.

Scientists at IRTA are eval­u­at­ing addi­tional clonal mate­ri­als and old orchards of olive vari­eties, and pri­or­i­tiz­ing the search for vari­etal char­ac­ter­is­tics that can improve pro­duc­tiv­ity, a low vigor/compact growth habit, dis­ease resis­tance and extra-vir­gin olive oil with high lev­els of antiox­i­dants.” California’s SHD orchards will soon be able to com­pare its expe­ri­ences with other regions in extra vir­gin oil qual­ity, eco­nomic via­bil­ity, orchard man­age­ment and sus­tain­abil­ity and nat­ural resource uti­liza­tion.

With the ris­ing world­wide olive oil con­sump­tion, many coun­tries are increas­ing their olive acreages. The tra­di­tional pro­duc­tion sys­tems of the Mediterranean are hun­dreds of years old with low yields and high pro­duc­tion costs. The authors of Olive cul­ti­vars field-tested in super-high-den­sity sys­tem in south­ern Italy” believe super high den­sity olive cul­ture may be the answer to help increase prof­itabil­ity in Europe as well as the U.S.

The exper­i­men­tal orchard was begun in the sum­mer of 2006 in Valenzano, Italy with Arbequina, Arbosana, Koroneiki, Coratina, and Urano cul­ti­vars. The results were as expected: In terms of early bear­ing and yield con­sis­tency, all the tested cul­ti­vars per­formed sat­is­fac­to­rily. And in sen­sory eval­u­a­tions, the result­ing extra-vir­gin oils had sweet typol­ogy and were well-bal­anced, highly fruity and ready to use.”

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