The Italian olive-growing sector is in a moment of transition in which it is necessary to deal with the new cultivation techniques of olive trees: traditional, intensive or SHD olive groves are different models of olive growing, which differ in production methods, yields and structure. Here are the main differences between traditional olive groves, the intensive cultivation of olive trees and a SHD olive orchard.
Traditional olive grove
Italy is a country in which extra virgin olive oil is a product of excellence, widely consumed in our diet and produced for centuries in many regions. Even today, the systems of cultivation of olive trees dominant in Italy are mostly attributable to traditional olive grove that has some distinctive characteristics:
• Low plant density with less than 200 trees per hectare.
• The soil is often irregular, mainly hilly.
• High productivity per tree but low productivity per hectare.
• Low mechanization and consequent high production costs.
A traditional olive grove, moreover, often develops on contained surfaces and the collection and management remains mostly manual, albeit with some help from new technologies.
Intensive olive grove
Since the 1960s, in order to compete with other world producers, we have witnessed the emergence of the intensive cultivation of the olive tree, which ensures a higher yield and a more innovative mechanization.
Here are the factors that characterize a high-density olive grove:
• Density of planting with 250/400 olive trees per hectare.
• Regular uniforms, usually of rectangular shape.
• Irrigation systems and mechanized harvesting of olives from the tree.
• High productivity of extra virgin olive oil per hectare.
The intensive grove of the olive tree therefore ensures a higher economic profitability compared to traditional olive growing and a better yield, even if pruning is still performed manually and the mechanical harvest is limited to the single plant.
Super high density olive farming
On the Spanish model, also in Italy SHD olive orchard began to establish themselves, taking further steps forward compared to the intensive cultivation of olive trees in terms of yield, cost savings and efficiency. The differences between traditional, intensive and SHD olive groves are remarkable and here are the main characteristics of a super high density olive farming:
• High density of plant, between 600 and 1600 olive trees per hectare.
• Reduced dimensions of the hair and arrangement with parallel rows.
• Mechanical harvest using pruning machines and harvesters that act not on the single tree but on the production wall.
• Precocious entry into production and very high yield.
Super high density olive orchard is therefore a cost-effective method that does not compromise the excellent quality of the final product, on the contrary it has been widely demonstrated that high-density olive grove does not worsen the quality of the oils but exalts it.