Climate Changes Challenge Olive Production

Most Mediterranean olive orchards were formerly produced under rainfed circumstances and low-density management methods, primarily in marginal locations typified by shallow soils and steep topography that could not readily be exploited for other crop production. Under these conditions, while playing an important role in local economy, olive production may indeed help to the preservation of ecosystem natural resources through soil conservation, improved soil water retention, and carbon sequestration.


Today, olive trees confront new difficulties and risks, the most serious of which are connected to climate change. Increased warmth and drought, as well as a rise in the frequency of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, are some of the issues that farmers will face in the future decades.


Recent reports show that significant warming has occurred in the Mediterranean region over the last 40 years, with annual temperatures now about 1.5 °C higher than in the preindustrial period (1880–1899) and well above current global warming trends (+1.1 °C), and we have experienced the six warmest years on record globally since 2014. Increasing temperatures were accompanied by a succession of severe heat events that occurred at an unprecedented rate in terms of length, severity, and frequency, and the frequency of cold extremes has decreased significantly.


In addition, a more obvious declining trend in annual total precipitation is anticipated, particularly across the west-central Mediterranean region and the Mediterranean region's southern coasts, but at varying local rates. Future climate forecasts for the Mediterranean area are notoriously dire. Precipitation predictions in this region indicate a general decline, which will reduce soil water availability. Because of the difficult summer weather conditions, including limited precipitation, intense heat, and strong solar radiation, the Mediterranean area is already characterized by plant heat and water stressors.


Furthermore, night time temperatures will likely to rise, resulting in even more thermal stress. Another expression of climate change is an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, hail, floods, and wildfires. Under climate change scenarios, the frequency and amplitude of these occurrences are expected to increase, leading to an increase in the severity of drought and heatwave periods throughout the Mediterranean Basin.


Future climate changes will have a significant impact on the agricultural industry as a whole, and the olive tree sector in particular. Regarding perennial crops, such as olive trees, these projections are expected to have severe negative effects under future climatic conditions, particularly on water relations, oxidative pathways and other physiological processes, phenological timings, final yield, and quality attributes.


Recent research on olive trees have revealed that this crop can be severely impacted by climate change, particularly in Mediterranean-type regions. Rising temperatures, for example, may have a significant influence on this crop. Temperature rises are predicted, which may lengthen the growth season. This will also result in alterations in phenological dates, notably blooming, with potentially negative consequences.


Furthermore, rising temperatures and increased evapotranspiration hasten fruit ripening, necessitating early harvests, albeit at lower maturity levels. Temperature rises may also result in a reduction in chilling conditions. Insufficient chilling leads in poor fruit setting, which has a negative impact on ultimate yields since some olive types develop malformed floral buds and fruits under these conditions.


Drought is regarded as a major limiting factor for agricultural output. Although olive trees are a drought-tolerant plant, water stress can cause a variety of negative effects, including reduced flowering and fruiting, reduced leaf area, restricted photosynthesis, flower abortion, and cluster abscission. Due to rising water stress conditions, these estimates may result in an overall decline in yields through 2080.


Nonetheless, all of these research agree that climate change would have a detrimental influence on olive tree yields in parts of the Mediterranean Basin's hottest and driest regions. The effects of pests and illnesses are another element of climate change. Indeed, research show that climate change is already impacting Mediterranean areas and making native olive tree varieties more susceptible to disease.


Crop responses to adverse conditions are strongly tied to the implemented adaptation measures. Proper management of the negative impacts of climate change may provide competitive advantages to early-adopting growers no matter is short term or long term adaptation. 



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