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Choosing a site
The following should be taken into account when selecting a site for an olive grove.
- Soil type and drainage - waterlogging kills olive trees.
- Availability of nutrients in soil.
- Soil acidity, olives grow best in soils with a pH of 7.0-8.0.
- Rock will impede infrastructure development such as irrigation trenches.
- Climate - olives like cool winters and hot summers.
- Winter frost is necessary for most varieties.
- Water storage for irrigation.
- Cost of irrigation infrastructure.
- Access to and cost of power for irrigation.
- Prevailing wind and windbreaks to protect trees during flowering.
- Previous crops which may have been hosts to fungi or nematodes.
- Availability of labour for pruning and harvesting.
- Proximity to markets and/or processor.
- Steep slopes will affect irrigation and harvesting by machine.
- Proximity to concentrations of wildlife which could damage trees.
- Fire danger.
- Security, susceptibility to vandalism and crop stealing.
SOIL AND WATER ANALYSIS
A soil survey and a water analysis report from an accredited consultant are recommended to determine the suitability of the soil and irrigation water for olive production, and possible remedial action.
The survey/analysis should determine:
- Soil structure and drainage.
- Soil pH or acidity.
- Soil fertility and water salinity.
- Readily Available Water (RAW).
- Presence of residual chemicals which may affect future organic registration.
- Presence of nematodes and fungal spores which affect olives.
Horticultural investments are long-term. Preparing the soil to give the trees an optimal start is critical for good early production and long-term profitability.
The soil survey report should provide an assessment of the suitability of the site soil for olive production and recommend possible remedial action that will improve marginal sites. For example:
- Application of lime to make the soil more alkaline, less acidic.
- Application of gypsum to break down clay and improve drainage.
- Ripping to at least 600mm to improve drainage and root penetration.
- Application of fertiliser or compost to improve fertility.
Other aspects of site preparation which should be completed prior to planting are:
- Establishment of windbreaks.
- Building of water storage.