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Happy trees equal great yields and high-quality olives

Publication date: 14 November 2022

An integrated pest and disease management program has equipped olive growers with the tools needed to manage their groves sustainably

The investment An integrated pest and disease management extension program for the olive industry (OL17001) was delivered by Western Sydney University from 2017 to 2020. The program delivered olive growers up-to-date, practical information for implementing integrated pest and disease management (IPDM) strategies in their groves. While the team focused on the sustainable management of three major olive pests and diseases – black scale, olive lace bug and anthracnose – all potential pests, diseases and disorders, as well as beneficial organisms, were addressed.

The project team worked closely with the Australian Olive Association (AOA) to provide extension outputs to industry. The program brought together a national network of experienced IPDM researchers, extension scientists and industry representatives.

Meet Peter and Marlies Eicher from Salute Oliva in Boort, Victoria

Peter and Marlies of Salute Oliva grow organically certified table olives and olive oil on their property in Boort, Victoria where they planted eight hectares in 2000. They grow three varieties of olives; Kalamata (mainly for table olives), an Italian variety, Frantoio (mainly for extra virgin olive oil) and a Spanish variety, Manzanillo (for table olives and extra virgin olive oil).

Engineers by trade, they take an analytical approach with their olive growing from start to finish with a mindset to develop the best product they can – they are not happy with “half-ok” results. They consider themselves to have three businesses in one – taking a holistic approach to their organic grove, manufacturing olive and olive oil products, and sales and marketing activities to sell directly across Australia.

The Olive Biz resources developed through the project An integrated pest and disease management extension program for the olive industry (OL17001) gave them insights, tools and management strategies implemented within an organic olive grove.

Peter and Marlies believe integrated pest and disease management actions such as cover cropping will also improve soil health and microbes, resulting in increased tree health, increased yield and quality olives, while decreasing pest and disease risks.

“Before we got involved in the integrated pest and disease management program, we were a little unsure of the extent of our scale pests and what the control options were. The pest was not out of control, but as organic producers we relied on pruning infected trees. We have been actively managing scale over the past two seasons with increased rainfall and humidity.”

The project provided Peter and Marlies with the resources and information to:

  • Monitor and continue to keep scales at a manageable level without letting them get out of hand and cause significant damage
  • Manage ants and to stop ‘scale farming’ by placing a sticky paste on the tree trunks to stop ants, weevils, and crawling insects from migrating from the ground into the tree canopy
  • Introduce cover crops to encourage wasps and other scale predators
  • Time their organic oil sprays – they are currently re-working (pollarding) approximately 16 per cent of the orchard per year (over six years) to reduce tree size for better harvesting efficiency and to help oil spray coverage and reduce pest and disease pressure.

“Being organic does not mean that you don’t do anything – we are bringing balance to our grove while also reducing the impact of pests and diseases on our olive grove. This spring we’re considering buying and spreading lacewings, wasps and other beneficial insects to promote biodiversity in our orchard and reduce the impact of other pests and diseases.”

At Salute Olivia, Peter and Marlies also produce their own compost from tree prunings, waste from olive oil processing, and graze sheep. These are all resources they use to help improve soil health and support tree health in their olive groves.

“We believe that happy trees equal great yields and high-quality olives.” Peter and Marlies Eicher, olive growers from Salute Oliva in Boort, Victoria