An Afternoon With the Pruning Champion

On a beautiful spring day, we left Rome and drove up to the territory which stretches between the foothills of the Colli Albani and the edge of the Pontine Marshes.

Apr. 24, 2017
By Riccardo De Luca and Ylenia Granitto

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We first met Riccardo Macari after his vic­tory at the 14th national cham­pi­onship of olive tree prun­ing.

We encour­age the pro­duc­tion of veg­e­ta­tive branches in the lower part of the canopy, while facil­i­tat­ing har­vest and the imple­men­ta­tion of all the other agro­nomic prac­tices dur­ing the year.- Riccardo Macari, Olive Tree Pruner

Our pro­fes­sional pruner man­ages sev­eral olive groves in Latium, and Stefano Riccio con­tacted him to restore an old grove at La Serenella, a bed and break­fast recently opened in Velletri.

On a beau­ti­ful spring day, we left Rome and drove up to the ter­ri­tory which stretches between the foothills of the Colli Albani and the edge of the Pontine Marshes. At La Serenella, the olive grove is flanked by fruit trees, and in the quiet hours, you could hear the sound of bees buzzing among cherry blos­soms.






La Serenella acquired some nearby ter­rain where sev­eral olive trees had not been treated for eight years; in par­tic­u­lar, two 80-year-old plants were not in good con­di­tion. They reached a height of 8 meters (26.2 feet), were cov­ered by climb­ing plants, and abun­dant suck­ers were grow­ing from the branches and around the base.

You could see an imbal­ance between a poor pro­duc­tion of branches in the lower part and a greater veg­e­ta­tive devel­op­ment in the upper por­tion of the canopy; if an olive tree is left untreated, branches develop in the direc­tion of the top, chas­ing the light.

Macari first worked on a Frantoio, then he took care of a vari­ety infor­mally called Ritornella which was nearly for­got­ten until it was recently redis­cov­ered by a group of farm­ers, and now waits to receive for­mal recog­ni­tion by com­pe­tent bod­ies.

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Its name comes from the word ritorno (return) because the late-ripen­ing and small, hard-to-detach fruit of this cul­ti­var force farm­ers to go back to the grove again to har­vest.

Our pruner per­formed reform prun­ing apply­ing the poly­conic vase train­ing sys­tem to allow the trees to reach full pro­duc­tion in a cou­ple of years.

With this approach, we encour­age the pro­duc­tion of veg­e­ta­tive branches in the lower part of the canopy, while facil­i­tat­ing har­vest and the imple­men­ta­tion of all the other agro­nomic prac­tices dur­ing the year,” Macari explained. We respect the plan­t’s equi­lib­rium and devel­op­ment,” he pointed out, by pro­mot­ing the devel­op­ment of fruity branches, rather than suck­ers and water sprouts.

The prun­ing was car­ried out from the ground with tele­scopic equip­ment in order to work safely, to have a bet­ter over­all view of the olive tree, and to reduce the exe­cu­tion time. First, it was nec­es­sary to use a pole chain­saw to roughly trim the canopy, then a saw to refine the work.

I started with defin­ing the top of the canopy, then I set­tled the equal dis­tance of branches,” Macari explained. In this way, I cre­ated the pri­mary struc­ture.”

Therefore, Macari elim­i­nated dichotomies (char­ac­ter­is­tic fea­tures of the tra­di­tional vase) and reduced to a min­i­mum the woody struc­ture of the olive tree with the aim to min­i­mize the alter­na­tion of pro­duc­tion.

Dichotomies and sec­ondary branches that have reached the same diam­e­ter as the pri­mary branch must be cut to facil­i­tate solar radi­a­tion of the canopy.

A good prun­ing, in fact, improves phy­tosan­i­tary aspects because it helps to reduce humid­ity inside the canopy,” he added. It facil­i­tates the elim­i­na­tion of var­i­ous dis­eases, such as the black scale, or Saissetia oleae, and reduces the effects of fun­gal dis­eases such as pea­cock’s spot, or Spilocaea oleaginea.”

When our pruner turned off the chain­saw and fin­ished work, we could still lis­ten to the con­cert of bees buzzing unper­turbed among the blos­soms.


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