How Cold Temperatures Can Help Olive Production

Over the past month, olive oil production areas such as Italy, Greece and Croatia were affected by exceptionally low temperatures and snow at low altitudes. Apulian olive groves at sea level have been whitened by snowdrifts for days.

Italy registered unusually severe winters in 1929, 1956 and 1985 that caused damage to the olive sector and agriculture generally. The cold can affect the wood of olive tree if the minimum temperature drops below -7°C (19.4°F) for 8-10 days, and cause irreparable harm to the canopy and trunk if they fall below -10/-12°C (14/10.4°F) in a few hours.

In broad terms, it is preferable to choose native varieties for their ability to adapt to soil and weather conditions in their region of origin, and a few days under the snow can have positive effects on the development of an olive tree and its production. It is not without reason that an old rural Italian proverb says in rhyme, Sotto la pioggia, fame; sotto la neve, pane, which means “Under water, famine; under snow, bread.”

“This winter was generally very cold with widespread frosts and snowfalls in large areas of the country,” said Nicolangelo Marsicani, an experienced olive grower from Campania which manages 6,000 olive trees in Sicilì di Morigerati, located in the National Park of Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni.

“The cold is critical to allow a period of vegetative rest and positively impact the development of the olive tree. Alongside fewer daylight hours and less time for photosynthesis, the period of dormancy due to low temperatures promotes flowering.” In fact, last winter in Italy temperatures did not decrease enough in several areas, and this was blamed for a drop in production. More