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Coming Off a Strong Year, Growers Ready for Harvest in Italy

The season now ending was characterized by an upward trend in terms of volume. Now, Italian farmers are looking at the next harvest and its climatic challenges.

Giorgio Tonti
Sep. 7, 2018
By Ylenia Granitto
Giorgio Tonti

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The lat­est report by the Ital­ian insti­tute ISMEA says Italy’s olive oil pro­duc­tion in the 2017/2018 sea­son reached 429,000 tons — a 135-per­cent increase over the prior year (182,000 tons).

Italy has seen major increases in south­ern regions, start­ing with Puglia which exceeded the thresh­old of 200,000 tons, while Sicily and Cal­abria returned to nor­mal lev­els of pro­duc­tion. The same goes for Abruzzo, while other areas of cen­tral Italy suf­fered most from the effects of extreme weather con­di­tions. Mean­while, qual­ity has remained at the high­est level, as proven by count­less recog­ni­tions obtained by the grow­ers across the Boot.
See more: This Year’s Best Olive Oils from Italy
Never able to rest on their lau­rels, farm­ers are now look­ing ahead to the upcom­ing har­vest. They are aware of the nat­ural ten­dency of olive trees for alter­nate bear­ing, com­bined with the con­se­quences of win­ter frosts.

They’re look­ing to limit the onset of pest infes­ta­tions such as the olive fruit fly and olive moth, and fun­gal dis­eases like olive pea­cock spot and anthrac­nose, favored by humid cli­mate and drop­ping tem­per­a­tures.

Even so, thanks to a con­stant mon­i­tor­ing of olive groves we pre­vented the attack of the fly,” affirmed Angela Fiore, who man­ages Olio Infiore with her brother Tom­maso. We are now in the final phase of a great sea­son, dur­ing which still a proper man­age­ment of water scarcity-related issues played a key role,” the pro­ducer from Puglia revealed.

The con­di­tion of their nine hun­dred plants of Coratina spread over the ter­ri­to­ries of Ter­l­izzi and Bitonto, on the north side of Bari, pro­vides hope for another good har­vest, albeit a more com­plex one.

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A slight decrease in pro­duc­tion could be caused by the effects of two years of extreme cold in a sec­tor of the orchard, where the farm­ers are still work­ing to recover the harmed plants.

Tommaso Fiore

Despite this year’s cold snap had a shorter dura­tion than the last, night­time tem­per­a­tures affected some olive trees, break­ing the wood or burn­ing the top of canopies,” Fiore observed. In the lat­ter case, how­ever, olive trees got bet­ter quickly, and for­tu­nately other plants affected by the bad weather of last sea­son fully recov­ered.”

In par­tic­u­lar, in the most suf­fer­ing olive grove, olive trees were so asphyx­i­ated and des­ic­cated, we thought about get­ting rid of them. But in the end, thanks to a great team­work, we were able to save the plants which are flour­ish­ing and healthy again. When you res­cue an olive tree that seemed doomed, you feel an inde­scrib­able feel­ing of joy,” she added.

Fiore allowed her­self only a few days of vaca­tion because she has a close rela­tion­ship with her olive trees. As they are con­vert­ing to organic farm­ing with timely actions with allowed treat­ments and traps against the olive fruit fly, they move con­fi­dently towards the next har­vest.

At Colle Nobile, last sea­son was fair in terms of quan­tity, and qual­i­ta­tively excel­lent, thanks to the con­stant com­mit­ment of Gior­gio Tonti, who man­ages 1,600 trees on the hills of the Marche region. In the lands of Jesi and San Mar­cello, he pro­duces five mono­va­ri­etals from the autochtho­nous cul­ti­vars Rag­gia, Mignola, and Rosci­ola dei Colli Esini, and the more wide­spread Fran­toio and Lec­cino.

Some­times extreme tem­per­a­tures helped us, as it was the case with the [the olive fruit fly], whose devel­op­ment last sum­mer was com­pletely blocked by the heat,” Tonti noted. Basi­cally, the sea­son went well, while this year we might have a small decrease in vol­umes, as part of our olive trees suf­fered from the low tem­per­a­tures reg­is­tered in Feb­ru­ary.”

Giorgio Tonti

The Fran­toio and Rag­gia were affected more than the oth­ers on Ton­ti’s farm, and he had to per­form a dras­tic prun­ing of some plants. Mignola, which gen­er­ally has a good frost resis­tance, also had prob­lems but to a lesser extent, while Rosci­ola dei Colli Esini responded very well, and this seems to be a high-yield year for this cul­ti­var, which hope­fully will give us a great har­vest together with Lec­cino.”

Tonti said researchers have shown an inter­est in fur­ther inves­ti­gat­ing the vari­eties con­sid­ered more resis­tant to cold tem­per­a­tures.

As for the olive fruit fly, he already noticed a neg­li­gi­ble pres­ence due to weather con­di­tions. As soon as we find any ovipo­si­tion or more catches in the traps, we are ready to use appro­pri­ate organic prod­ucts.”

High­light­ing the impor­tance of a sus­tain­able approach to high-qual­ity olive grow­ing, the farmer con­cluded, our extra vir­gin olive oil with its unique organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics, is the healthy result of agri­cul­ture in bal­ance with nature.”


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