AUCTION - The Big Olive Processing Plant

Agronomist Restores 400-Year-Old Olive Grove to Better Withstand Droughts in Croatia

Restoration of centuries-old trees is the first line of defense against drought, according to one young agronomist.

The Zadar County Olive Growers Association continues to educate its members and other interested olive growers.

After a short summer break, the group organized a workshop on the island of Ugljan in the 400-year-old olive grove of the Marcelić family.

“This is a typical extensive olive grove with autochthonous varieties: Oblica and Drobnica predominate,” said 29-year-old Šime Marcelić, a doctor of agronomy and owner of the family grove.

The young scientist and lover of olive growing said his ancestors worked for the landowners, saving to eventually buy back the land they cultivated after the second agrarian reform.

Ugljan is one of the many Croatian islands in the middle of the Adriatic Sea in Dalmatia, where olives have been cultivated for time immemorial. Maslinik is located on the southern side of the island, 100meters above the sea.

“As you can see, there are stones and poor soil. The conditions are limited, so it is very difficult to work,” Marcelić said.

Drought is a perennial problem, which is why the olive grove was abandoned and rebuilt several times. Eventually, Marcelić’s late father, Ignacije, began to restore the trees systematically after the Croatian War of Independence, which ended in 1995.

Marcelić continues the work of his father. Saplings grew from the centuries-old root and developed into trees that regularly bear fruit despite the impacts of climate change and other unfavorable conditions.

Marcelić attributed the successful revival of the trees to appropriate agrotechnical measures, starting with pruning, fertilization and protection against diseases and pests, which he regularly implements.

Unlike most olive growers, Marcelić prunes the trees four times a year. The first is in January when the olive tree is in winter dormancy. Thick branches are removed with a saw.

The second pruning is in March. The olive-bearing branches are thinned to ensure optimal yield in the current crop and quality growth for the next crop.

The third pruning comes during the summer. Weeds that grow out of the stump are removed.

The fourth is during the harvest when the ringed branches are removed.

On the island, where the soil is shallow and skeletal, emphasis should be placed on autumn fertilization, Marcelić noted. In contrast to the conditions on the coast, where the soils are deep and have a good capacity for water and where the occurrence of late spring frosts is frequent and expected, spring fertilization should be emphasized.

In his olive grove, Marcelić applies fertilizer between the first summer and the next heavy rain, mostly at the beginning of September. He uses mainly organic pelleted fertilizers in combination with mineral fertilizers that have more phosphorus and potassium with the addition of microelements. More