The Honey Olive Grove: A Sustainable Solution

This polyculture system brings several benefits to the olive grove in a context of sustainability and resilience to extreme weather.

Newly planted lavender at Alvelal Association member Fran Martínez Rayas' farm in his olive grove in Gor, Granada.
Jan. 14, 2019
By Ylenia Granitto
Newly planted lavender at Alvelal Association member Fran Martínez Rayas' farm in his olive grove in Gor, Granada.

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The honey olive grove, designed by Madrid-based land­scaper Javier Domínguez, is an agro-land­scape con­cept con­sist­ing of a poly­cul­ture sys­tem that com­bines olive trees and aro­matic bushes.

The aro­matic hedgerows have the capac­ity to act on water effects, serv­ing as a phys­i­cal bar­rier for col­lect­ing rain and runoff water, thus help­ing the olive grove to pre­vent flood­ing and soil ero­sion.- Javier Domínguez, land­scap­ing expert

It has been launched on the EU plat­form, Climate Innovation Window, which embeds the EU Horizon2020 project BRIGAID, aimed at effec­tively bridg­ing the gap between inno­va­tors, investors and end-users in resilience to floods, droughts and extreme weather.

In the Community of Madrid, plans are already under way to intro­duce honey olive groves, both to boost rev­enues and pro­tect the com­mu­ni­ty’s ecol­ogy.

See Also: Horizon 2020

Domínguez’s grove plan pro­vides for the strate­gic posi­tion­ing of herbs, such as laven­der and rose­mary, grouped into blocks, between the rows of olive trees, accord­ing to a pat­tern which brings sev­eral ben­e­fits to the orchard.

The aro­matic hedgerows have the capac­ity to act on water effects, serv­ing as a phys­i­cal bar­rier for col­lect­ing rain and runoff water, thus help­ing the olive grove to pre­vent flood­ing and soil ero­sion,” the land­scaper said.

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Situated in par­al­lel to the dimen­sion lines, herbs mit­i­gate water effects that trees can’t, while in the case of hill slopes, aro­matic bushes could be strate­gi­cally located to act as tra­di­tional ter­races,” he added.

The great advan­tage of aro­matic herbs is that they are mel­lif­er­ous, pro­duc­ing honey. This can be used as an addi­tional rev­enue stream in olive groves as well as increase bio­di­ver­sity.

Olive trees, whose flow­ers are small and unscented like other veg­etable species, are not honey plants and do not attract pol­li­nat­ing insects. They are mostly wind-pol­li­nated (or anemophilous).

Aromatic herbs, such as laven­der and rose­mary, on the other hand, attract bees and other pol­li­na­tors. These mel­lif­er­ous plants pro­vide the basis for an extra bee­keep­ing activ­ity.

From honey pro­duc­tion, we can obtain very high rev­enues,” Domínguez said. To this we can also add the extrac­tion of essen­tial oils as a valu­able source of income for farm­ers, con­sid­er­ing the high prices of this kind of prod­uct.”

Provision and main­te­nance of ecosys­tem ser­vices, such as bio­di­ver­sity and pol­li­na­tion, have key impor­tance in the sus­tain­able adap­ta­tion to cli­mate chal­lenges, while the pro­duc­tion of a food like honey paired with the extra vir­gin olive oil can be seen as a fur­ther ben­e­fit for the pop­u­la­tion, espe­cially in depressed regions,” Domínguez added, show­ing the eth­i­cal side of his project.

Basically, the honey olive grove is an envi­ron­men­tally friendly setup that com­bines an extra type of crop pro­duc­tion and sur­plus prof­its with the cre­ation of an ideal ecosys­tem for ben­e­fi­cial insects, such as hon­ey­bees, which are essen­tial for the envi­ron­men­tal bal­ance, and still seri­ously endan­gered by pes­ti­cides

When it comes to the most suit­able type of farm­ing for this pat­tern, although there are no incom­pat­i­bil­i­ties, chem­i­cal-free and organic approaches are to be pre­ferred, keep­ing the prac­tice as a low envi­ron­men­tal impact cul­ti­va­tion method.

The aes­thet­ics should not be under­es­ti­mated either.

We can choose dif­fer­ent aro­matic plants,” the Domínguez said. My idea is to use laven­der and rose­mary in a pro­por­tion of at least 70 per­cent, and other aro­matic bushes such as thyme, sage, mint and so on for the remain­ing part, in order to enrich bio­di­ver­sity and to have the pos­si­bil­ity of pro­duc­ing dif­fer­ent honey vari­eties, but also to ensure dif­fer­ent flow­er­ing stages.”

Beauty attracts peo­ple, mak­ing the [day-to-day lives] of locals more enjoy­able, while cap­ti­vat­ing tourists and trav­el­ers,” he added.

Polycultures are cur­rently under con­sid­er­a­tion,” he con­tin­ued. Some olive oil pro­duc­ers are already exper­i­ment­ing with laven­der between olive trees – farm­ers of Asociación Alvelal planted six dif­fer­ent types of bushes, three between the rows and three along the perime­ter, in a 9‑hectare (22-acre) plot.”

Domínguez explained that first, in 2015, he designed a dehesa de miel,’ a honey graz­ing land, and then he devised the honey olive grove and vine­yard.

I thought that the wine world would answer quickly, and then the olive oil sec­tor was the most inter­ested and the first to imple­ment the project, indi­cat­ing its respon­sive­ness and flair for sus­tain­able inno­va­tions,” he con­cluded.





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