`Mapping Puglia's Ancient Olives

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Mapping Puglia's Ancient Olives

Dec. 19, 2011
By Lucy Vivante

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Don’t Touch the Olives” cam­paign from the Salento, Puglia

Puglia is Italy’s great­est olive oil pro­duc­ing region, account­ing for about 40 per­cent of the country’s annual pro­duc­tion of 550 thou­sand tons of olive oil. It’s esti­mated that there are 60 mil­lion olive trees in Puglia, and peo­ple like to say that’s one for each of Italy’s 60 mil­lion peo­ple.

About six mil­lion of the trees are con­sid­ered mon­u­men­tali or mon­u­men­tal trees and just under half a mil­lion trees are known as ulivi sec­o­lari or cen­turies-old trees.

A project to map the trees with satel­lite pho­tographs is under way. Each tree will be indi­vid­u­ally cat­a­loged and form part of a data­base. Puglia’s envi­ron­men­tal offi­cial, Lorenzo Nicas­tro, said the cen­sus would cost € 250,000 and it would be a valu­able tool for the agency tasked with pro­tect­ing the trees, as well as grant­ing or deny­ing per­mis­sion for the trans­plan­ta­tion of trees.

mapping-puglias-ancient-olives-olive-oil-times-puglia-monumental-olive--database-entryIn 2007 a law was intro­duced to pro­tect mon­u­men­tal and ancient trees from trans­plan­ta­tion and destruc­tion. Pho­tographs of time sculpted olives trans­planted to the gar­dens of week­end vil­las belong­ing to Milanese busi­ness­men (Berlus­coni among them) gal­va­nized sup­port for olive tree pro­tec­tion in Puglia and led to the suc­cess­ful pas­sage of the law. The 2007 law was set to expire at the end of this month, but it has been extended with some mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

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Depressed prices for olive oil are tempt­ing farm­ers to sell olive planted land to real estate devel­op­ers or pro­duce more lucra­tive crops. Italy’s high elec­tric­ity costs, and gov­ern­ment incen­tives, have made pho­to­voltaic farms (solar panel fields) a very pop­u­lar crop choice to replace olives.



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