Olea europea



This is an extremely hardy tree with an almost legendary drought tolerance.  They have a preference for Calcareous soils and can tolerate steep slopes with shallow rocky soil.  Of course, the best crop production will come from far less harsh situations.  The trees are long lived and wind pollinated.
Olives can take up to 5 years or more before producing a crop, and 10 to 20 years to reach full production; but they can keep bearing for as long as 600 years. A tree may grow up to 6 to 12 metres tall.


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Little is required in the way of fertilisers.  Commercial groves may require a combination of varieties to improve pollination and yield.  Olives have a high cold requirement   as much as 1500 hours or more, depending on the variety   and this will greatly affect flower production.  Extremely low temperatures however can also cause damage.
Cropping will tend to follow a biennial pattern under good conditions, as a heavy crop will tend to inhibit flower production in the following year.  For this reason (and to produce good sized fruit), proper thinning is important.  Chemical thinning agents are generally used within a few weeks of full bloom.  The variety `Sevillano' appears to be an exception to this rule.

Plants are normally spaced at about 10 metres and pruned to an open vase shape to keep them as low as possible.  Subsequent pruning is only to maintain this shape.  Heavy pruning may reduce yields and encourage the development of suckers, and so should be avoided.  Young trees are shaped so they develop 3 to 5 main branches above a clean trunk, after which they are pruned only when necessary (eg. for shape or to remove dead wood, etc). Sometimes fruiting can be irregular (biennial). In such cases fruit or flower thinning may help produce a more even crop each year.


Propagation is generally by budding or grafting onto seedling stock, although root grafts, semi  hardwood and hardwood cuttings are also successful.


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Plant Health

The only major pest of olives in some regions is brown olive scale.  This is not often serious and is easily controlled.  Other possible pests and diseases may include   weevils, peacock spot fungus, crown gall and nematodes.  These are usually only occasional problems or localised to particular areas.

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