Portuguese researcher José Luis Penetra Cerveira Lousada (or the “tree datador”, as he likes to be called), who works at the University of Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro (Vila Real, Portugal), has patented, along with his team, a formula that ensures the age of olive trees and ancient chestnut. Mercacei has interviewed him to get to know his job in detail.
What does your method on dating olive trees have in particular?
One of the most prominent features of many trees, especially those from regions with very specific cyclic environmental alterations (temperature, precipitation, photoperiod…), is that its wood is formed by concentric rings corresponding to successive annual increases in their growth. If its trunk is sectioned transversely, these rings appear presenting a succession of bright and dark spots depending on their anatomical structure. The first rings correspond to wood formed during the first stage of the growing season (spring), while the darker areas correspond to the wood produced in the final phase of this period (summer/fall). In this sense, evaluating the age of a tree is relatively easy, since all you have to do is count the number of rings present in a cross section of a trunk taken as close as possible to the base area.