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Organic olive production short course and manual

The Issue

A 2004 survey of the California olive oil industry found that 66 percent of the olive oil acreage in the state was being farmed organically. Some of the producers are certified, some are not, and many are in transition to certified organic status. The growth of this industry has paralleled the growth of organic agriculture and there is much demand for research and educational information to serve this burgeoning segment of the economy. Interest in the production of specialty table olives is also increasing as the canned black olive industry suffers from import competition. One way table olive growers can separate their product from others in this competitive world market is to produce the fruit organically. Growers want to produce these healthful foods in a manner that does not disrupt the environment, produces an excellent quality product, and takes advantage of the marketing niche for organic products.

What Has ANR Done?

Over the last few years, several UC researchers and educators began to study various alternative cultural practices and pest control methods that could lead to the production of organically certified olive oil and table olives. They focused on plant nutrients from processing wastes, cover crops, compost and various organic mineral sources. They also have investigated the control of various pests such as foliar leaf spots, olive knot, black scale and the newly introduced olive fruit fly. Others worked on weed control methods that avoided the use of herbicides and took advantage of the olive tree's hardiness and natural vigor. In 2005, 180 people attended a statewide short course on organic olive production in Santa Rosa. The course syllabus was later refined and published as the Organic Olive Production Manual. The manual addresses all aspects of production in an organic context. An overview of site selection, olive cultivars, and the economics of olives as a commodity provides background. There are chapters devoted to all the important elements of orchard culture that are specific to organic production: nutrition, weed control, disease prevention and insect pest management. Composting and olive waste management are detailed. Agroecological principles for making the conversion to organic olive production and information about organic certification complete the manual. There are many charts and color photos to illustrate this companion to the second edition of The Olive Production Manual.

The Payoff

California olive growers now have what they need to transition to organic

California olive growers now have a well-researched, science-based production system that can help them grow this crop as certified organic. This manual helps producers select the best site to grow olives; minimize their risks from nutritional problems, weeds, diseases, and insect pests; and eliminates the use of conventional pesticides that might contaminate the environment or pose a risk to the applicator. There is also a potential to increase profits by marketing table olives and olive oil as USDA certified organic.

Clientele Testimonial

“This is an excellent resource that has helped me manage this ranch organically.” Shari DeJoseph, McEvoy Ranch.


Supporting Unit: Sonoma County

Paul Vossen,(707) 565-2621, pmvossen@ucdavis.edu