A group of researchers from the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) located in San Juan (Argentina) is developing new strategies for the management of olive groves exposed to high climatic variability, such as high temperatures and water restrictions. The aim is to generate information to facilitate decision-making in order to maintain crop yield levels and the quality of the final product.

Mariela Torres, coordinator of INTA’s global olive tree germplasm bank, stressed that the aim of these trials is to “implement new irrigation strategies in olive groves that allow water and energy savings, seeking to increase oil quality and olive production by means of water restriction“. Furthermore, the coordinator of INTA’s world germplasm bank of olive trees, Pierluigi Pierantozzi, has specified that “this trial is carried out under two types of deficit irrigation, one sustained, in which less water than the theoretical need of the olive tree crop is provided throughout its cycle; and another controlled, with a smaller amount of water than the theoretical need of the crop, at different times of the year, but respecting the critical periods of the olive tree“. The aim is to analyse the effects of these two strategies (sustained deficit irrigation and controlled deficit irrigation) on the vegetative (crown volume, length of toast, trunk diameter), physiological (stem water potential) and productive (yield kg/plant) parameters of two crop models, one super-intensive and the other intensive with the ‘Genovese’ variety.

The coordinator also states that “so far, we have observed that the intermediate deficit treatments do not show a marked decrease in yield compared to the control treatment, with a comparative advantage in management costs” and also these preliminary results provide basic information on the water requirements of both models of olive grove.

On the other hand, this research pursues another objective, which is to evaluate the impact of higher winter temperatures and lower rainfall on both models. To this end, the possibility of modifying irrigation practices has been proposed as an alternative to promote the buds coming out of dormancy, thus improving the flowering and productivity of the olive grove. Futhermore, he points out that “one problem with olive cultivation in Argentina is related to the adaptation of introduced cultivars, most of which are of European origin, to environmental conditions different from those prevailing in the countries of the Mediterranean basin“. Consequently, low productivity is observed in some cultivars and environments, as a result of a low flowering rate and/or a marked alternation of flowering between the life cycles of the crop.

For this reason, Mariela Torres has placed special emphasis on the need to develop a study on the influence of environmental regulation on the processes of floral induction and differentiation. She also points out that “this is an extremely important aspect as it has a direct influence on flowering and, ultimately, on fruit set and fruit production“. Therefore, the aim is to deepen the existing evidence on the effect of temperature and winter water restriction as modulators of flower development, in order to evaluate some biochemical and molecular signals that could be involved in this process.

Finally, Torres concludes that “the results raise the possibility of providing olive growers with management tools to promote bud dormancy and thus improve flowering and production in olive groves“. In addition, Pierantozzi stresses that “this provides tools for olive growers and technicians in the sector when planning irrigation management strategies aimed at a more efficient use of water resources, in a context of water scarcity such as the one we are currently experiencing“.

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