Researchers Test New Olive Varieties to Improve Sustainability

Researchers in Andalusia are experimenting with new olive varieties to find ones that could be more sustainable, both for farmers and the environment.

On a farm in Lora del Río, just outside of the provincial capital of Seville, researchers from the Andalusian Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (IFAPA) and agronomic engineers from Ingeoliva have planted several adapted olive varieties in a system of hedges.

“The main intention of the trial is to identify new varieties of olive trees that adapt to the hedge cultivation system, using cultivation techniques that have minimal impact on the environment, but can be used in any grove,” Ingeoliva CEO Enrique de la Torre told Olive Oil Times.

“We have adapted varieties of more reluctant olive trees such as Picudo, Hojiblanca, Picual and Cornicabra, as well as almond and citrus trees to this system,” he added.

In this medium-density system, the trees are spaced out with 1.50  meters between each one and 5.0  meters between rows. These hedges will allow both for mechanized harvesting and the creation of a biodiverse environment.

De la Torre emphasized that the idea is to create an ecosystem around the olive trees, with different types of flowers, grasses and shrubs creating homes for native wildlife, preventing erosion and allowing for natural air circulation.

“We want the planted trees to be in better conditions and in balance with the ecosystem, that’s why we make lines of trees with wider rows that allow better use of sunlight and water resources; wide spaces between which we plant a vegetative cover with selected native seeds that fix nutrients in the soil and attract beneficial wildlife,” he said. “All of this means that the trees planted are more productive and less affected by pests.” More