Before planting an olive grove it is a good rule to find information about some characteristics of the area concerned, analyzing if possible, several variables: temperatures and rainfall during the year, risk of frost.
, incidence of particular physical-climatic conditions, pedological and altimetric characteristics, possibility or not to have irrigation water. Also some “social” variables are very important: the presence of laws that regulate the quality certification of products (see chapter on the choice of varieties and table of Italian PDO and PGI), location and type of processing plants, possibility of finding staff or companies that carry out processing on behalf of third parties. Each of these variables can influence, in a more or less decisive way, some of the choices that have to be made before reaching the final planting, thus considerably influencing the success of the plant. A good preliminary strategy must include visits to professional associations and provincial agricultural offices, especially for administrative and legislative aspects. Further practical information can be obtained from social and/or private mills. One of the best actions, so simple that almost nobody does it, is to check if there are plants in the area you are interested in (probably, if they do not exist, there are good reasons) and to study peculiarities, forms of farming, sixths and varieties of existing ones. Nothing provides better information on the interaction between the tree and the environment of an adult olive grove. Study the plants, see how they have grown, if they have suffered damage over time (if they have been cut out at the foot, for example) if they grow well with the space available and if they produce without problems. Spend time with some passionate olive grower (but don’t take everything he says for granted…) and cross-reference the information you receive with the information you get from the technicians. Be careful, the time “lost” in this accurate planning of your plant will be largely rewarded by the minor problems you will have to face later, sometimes so big that it will frustrate your investment…
It is important to know from the beginning how the harvest will take place because this variable can affect both the variety to be placed in the olive groves and the form of breeding to be given to the trees. The harvest is carried out in Italy using all available techniques. The simplest system is to wait for the fruit to detach naturally from the plant. In this case the harvesting of the fruit can be done on the ground manually or through brushing machines or on cloths arranged to intercept the fruit before it comes into contact with the ground. Simple but with negative effects on quality as you can read in the chapter on Ripening and Harvesting the fruit. The olives can then be picked by hand, using simple facilitators such as small plastic rakes, “Ciani scissors” or others or mechanical facilitators. The latter can ensure high harvesting yields, especially when used with excellent organizational criteria. One of the major manufacturers of harvesting machines is based in Italy: Campagnola, based in Bologna.
THE FORM OF FARMING
The choice of breeding system is a fundamental step. Mistakes made in this phase can affect the productivity and profitability of the olive grove to the point of severely compromising the possibility of tree management. It is necessary to know from before the planting what will be, for example, the type of harvesting, the machines to be used for the management of the various operations, the soil management system, so as to select the most suitable form and finally calculate the planting distances that depend heavily on it. The forms of cultivation can be divided on the basis of the shape of the foliage (in volume or wall), the rigidity of the skeleton (free forms or not), the presence of the trunk (pot or bush) and the height of the trunk (low pot or traditional pot). The decision must first be taken according to the type of harvest. If it is necessary to apply a shaker for mechanical harvesting, for example, it is compulsory to breed the plants with a single trunk of good height, which is not necessary if harvesting is done manually. The distances between rows can also be extended if manual harvesting is required and it would be good practice to already have an idea of the requirements of the machinery to be applied when deciding on the distances between rows and between plants. Further information can be found in the section “Plant selection”. Our nursery offers plants that are set up differently in relation to the form of cultivation which