Rooting olive trees for organic farming

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Researchers at UPM have shown good results by using products that facilitate olive tree rooting and are authorized for organic farming.

After the enactment of organic farming regulations, there have been significant limitations to the use of certain products for rooting olive trees. Researchers from the School of Agricultural Engineering and School of Agricultural Technical Engineering of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid have taken an important step towards finding solutions thanks to the “Orgánico Terrabal” product that is permitted in organic farming and can be an alternative to the most popular rooting product for olive trees, indolebutyric acid. According to the regulation (CE) 834/2007 and 889/2008, indolebutyric acid is not permitted for organic production.

Organic farming aims to obtain the highest quality products which are respectful to the environment and can preserve soil fertility by avoiding using synthetic chemicals. Organic olive groves comprise the second-most important organic farms worldwide after coffee. Spain has more than 168,000 hectares (MAGRAMA 2012) of organic olive grove, representing 31.1 percent of the total global area. Castilla La Mancha has 38% of the organic olive grove surface in Spain. Andalucia has 33% and Extremadura 19%. It is estimated that 11.5 million kilos of organic olive oil were sold in 2012. This means an increase of about 17% compared to the year before. Italy is the main exporter of Spanish organic oil with 4 million kilos.

Today, olive tree multiplication is performed by semi-hard wood cuttings comprising stems of 20 cm with leaves (Figure 1). The base of cuttings is treated with products that facilitate the rooting and the root formation. After that, the cuttings are placed into a greenhouse on basal heated benches with filled substrate trays and are watered with intermittent misting (Figure 2) in order to maintain humidity and trigger the rooting.

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