Climate change and other unexpected factors have hit global olive crops hard in recent years, and it’s true that, for many, this year’s Italian olive oil yield has been largely disappointing. Extreme weather conditions, unseasonable rain, a scourge of olive fruit flies, and the spread of Xylella fastidiosa (a bacterium which devastates olive trees) have combined to create the perfect storm of adversity.
The Italian olive harvest has certainly felt the impact. Still, the gloom and doom spread by some recent media articles is not the whole story.<pAll is not lost.
In fact, this year’s Italian olive oil yield (185,000 tons) is actually higher than that of 2016 (182,000 tons), according to figures published by Statistica. And it’s only slightly lower than yields from olive crops in 2014, which weighed in at 222,000 tons.
When it comes to individual growers and groves, the geographic area in which groves are located has much to do with whether a particular brand thrives or struggles.
This year’s harsh weather held negative impact in certain areas of Southern Italy (a region normally responsible for 65% of Italian olive oil yield), but many groves located in Italy’s northern climes actually benefited, recording regional harvests better than those seen in average years. Collective growers such as Bellucci are fairing far better than expected, with diverse farms and holdings chosen to support diverse cultivars in distinct geographic environments.
For those not familiar with Xylella fastidiosa, the bacterium is certainly no laughing matter. Infection of olive crops results in symptoms ranging from leaf scorch to chronic wilting, and even the death of the tree and its roots.
Spread of Xylella is exacerbated by intensely wet conditions, and it can completely devastate an entire grove of olive trees, especially those which are genetically identical, or grown from grafted rootstock.
A lack of genetic diversity amongst crops means that what damages one tree is likely to damage the whole grove, which makes an infection of monoculture crops serious business. The same goes for infestations of pests, such as the olive fruit fly, which can cause premature dropping of fruit and leave olive trees vulnerable to other bacteria.
The devastation posed to groves of single-cultivar crops by each of these threats (extreme weather, disease, or pest) is grave, indeed—but those who cultivate multiple varietals find themselves in a much better position to weather adversity. Diverse groves of old-growth trees are hardy and more resilient when subjected to harsh conditions.
Is climate change to blame for this year’s low yield?
In part, yes. But there are other factors in play when it comes to the overall health of the Italian olive harvest. And, regardless of what caused this year’s low yield, at Bellucci, we’ve chosen to focus our energy on methods that encourage resilience.
Our groves are diverse. We cultivate multiple olive varietals, and we use time-tested, traditional methods to ensure that our land and trees are in top-notch condition. We also support and participate in extensive research, focused on efforts to reduce the impact of adverse conditions.
By taking a proactive approach, we identify and address the challenges of a swiftly changing world gracefully, while preserving the production of delicious, authentic Italian EVOO for generations to come.
So, while others may be content spreading stories of gloom and doom, Bellucci Premium Italian EVOO is still something to look forward to—for generations to come. Pour more!