Olive Groves in Texas Remain Barren Ahead of Harvest Season

Due to extensive damage from consecutive winters of extremely low temperatures, olive groves in Texas have not borne fruit since the 2020 harvest.
(Photo: Cathy Bernell)
By Thomas Sechehaye
Jun. 29, 2023 14:33 UTC

There will be no olive har­vest for the third con­sec­u­tive year in Texas, his­tor­i­cally the sec­ond-largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing state in the United States.

The groves remain in a restora­tion sta­tus,” said Cathy Burnell, pres­i­dent of the Texas Association of Olive Oil (TXAOO) and Texas Olive Oil Advisory Board board mem­ber, told Olive Oil Times. The good news and pos­i­tive signs are that we are see­ing recov­ery in exist­ing groves, and plant­ing new groves has resumed.”

We fully expected a crop this year. It looked like we were on the verge of our come­back year… (However,) we had unsea­son­ably warm weather imme­di­ately before freez­ing tem­per­a­tures this win­ter.- Stephen Janak, exten­sion pro­gram spe­cial­ist, Texas A&M AgriLife

The Texas olive har­vest [usu­ally] begins in late August and goes through early October, but Texas will not have an olive har­vest in 2023,” she added. But we are excited and look for­ward to the 2024 Texas olives.”

Long story short, there will be no olive har­vest in Texas this year,” con­firmed Stephen Janak, an exten­sion pro­gram spe­cial­ist at Texas A&M AgriLife. Fall of 2020 was the last time olives were har­vested in Texas.”

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

Depending on their loca­tion in the state, the sec­ond-largest in the U.S. by area, olive grow­ers in Texas expe­ri­enced diverse impacts and have reacted dif­fer­ently.

While a hand­ful of peo­ple quit grow­ing olives entirely, some switched to dif­fer­ent crops,” Janak, who vis­its orchards across Texas, told Olive Oil Times. However, he noted, the major­ity have replanted or are at least con­tin­u­ing to care for their trees and try­ing to revi­tal­ize their orchards.”

Texas has expe­ri­enced his­toric and dam­ag­ing freez­ing weather in three straight win­ters.

Nearly all the orchards north of U.S. Highway 90 [which con­nects Houston with San Antonio and con­tin­ues into west Texas] look ter­ri­ble,” Janak said. Most have small, stunted, dam­aged trees, or the orchards have been recently replanted this spring.”

“[In con­trast] south of U.S. Highway 90 looks bet­ter,” he added. There are orchards here that never com­pletely froze to the ground and only had some canopy dieback.”

At the begin­ning of the year, Janak said there was hope for an olive har­vest in Texas, but extreme win­ter weather con­di­tions again inter­fered.

We fully expected a crop this year,” he said. It looked like we were on the verge of our come­back year, at least for the more south­ern orchards. [However,] we had unsea­son­ably warm weather imme­di­ately before freez­ing tem­per­a­tures this win­ter.”

The warm win­ter tem­per­a­tures resulted in the olive trees pro­duc­ing buds pre­ma­turely, which were then dam­aged by the drop to below-freez­ing tem­per­a­tures shortly after.

Inflorescence buds had begun to wake up and were caught by the freeze,” Janak said. I cut open many buds in February to find that they were black and dead inside.”

The long and short story, all the orchards with mature, estab­lished trees that were capa­ble of set­ting a crop look really good right now – but they have no fruit,” he added. The trees are big and healthy and vig­or­ous, with no fruit load. The chal­lenge now is to keep free­load­ing trees from get­ting too vig­or­ous.”

Burnell con­firmed that the recent warm weather fol­lowed by an imme­di­ate cold snap had dealt a blow to grow­ers across the Lone Star State.

See Also:Late Winter Rains, Heavy Blooms Herald a Promising Season in California

Previously weak­ened olive trees were killed, and newly planted young olive trees were dam­aged,” she said. The win­ter cold from this year was expe­ri­enced in areas of Texas that tra­di­tion­ally don’t see tem­per­a­tures in the twen­ties or teens (about –10 ºC to – 4 ºC).”

The groves that escaped sig­nif­i­cant dam­age from the win­ter storm, Uri, suf­fered dam­age from this unex­pected cold,” Burnell added.


According to a report from the Texas Comptroller, the Winter Storm Uri of 2021 will remain etched into Texans’ minds for a long time. The storm caused sig­nif­i­cant snow accu­mu­la­tion and power black­outs across the state. The esti­mated storm-related losses range between $80 bil­lion to $130 bil­lion.

A Texas Farm Bureau report esti­mates agri­cul­tural losses from Winter Storm Uri at over $600 mil­lion. The report notes that these esti­mates are con­ser­v­a­tive and cumu­la­tive losses may be much higher, with reper­cus­sions that can affect pro­duc­ers for years.

Looking ahead, pro­duc­ers and grow­ers in the Lone Star State are opti­mistic and focused on grow­ing new skills. Olives are an emerg­ing indus­try in Texas, and Texas grow­ers are enthu­si­as­tic about tak­ing fresh approaches to emerge vic­to­ri­ous.

We do have hope for a har­vest in 2024,” Janak said. The orchards in the state’s south­ern half are healthy, with lots of poten­tial fruit­ing wood. What we need for that to hap­pen is at least some sem­blance of a nor­mal win­ter. We would like to request no extreme tem­per­a­ture swings and tem­per­a­tures lower than about 27 ºF ( – 3 ºC).”

If we do receive enough chill­ing to cause flow­er­ing, and we also avoid more freeze dam­age, the Texas olive indus­try would see its first olive har­vest in four years,” he added. That would do a lot to pro­vide a bit of opti­mism and hope for Texas olive grow­ers.”

Despite the set­backs of the past three years, Burnell said olive grow­ers in Texas have learned a lot.

While there were no har­vests in the con­ven­tional sense, Burnell takes a broader per­spec­tive of the term and says pro­duc­ers had reaped the ben­e­fits of a very dif­fer­ent kind of har­vest­ing.

Harvest means to col­lect or obtain (a resource) for future use,” Burnell explained. Texas has pro­duced con­ven­tional olive har­vests since 2012, and with each har­vest, Texas grow­ers have become more skilled in both what and what not to do to achieve a suc­cess­ful Texas olive har­vest.”

With Mother Nature as the apex teacher school­ing us with his­toric weather events over the past three years, Texas olive grow­ers have har­vested’ inno­va­tion, per­se­ver­ance and deter­mi­na­tion along with olive vari­ety ver­i­fi­ca­tion, grove estab­lish­ment method­olo­gies and man­age­ment,” she added. These are the resources that will take Texas olive grow­ers and the Texas olive indus­try into the future.”


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