In 2022, Portugal experienced one of the worst droughts in recent history. The impact of this drought has been felt in a number of agricultural industries, including the olive oil producing industry. In this article, we will explore the impact of drought on the olive oil producing industry in Portugal and what measures can be taken to adapt to these changing conditions.
The Impact of Drought on Olive Oil Production
Olive trees are known for their ability to withstand dry conditions, but even they are susceptible to the impact of prolonged droughts. The 2022 drought in Portugal had a significant impact on olive oil production, with many olive groves experiencing reductions in production and quality.
According to a report by the National Institute of Agricultural and Veterinary Research (INIAV) of Portugal, the drought has led to a 20-25% decrease in olive oil production in Portugal in 2022 compared to the previous year. This decrease was due to a number of factors, including reduced rainfall, increased evapotranspiration and increased pest and disease pressure.
The reduction in harvests has also had a significant impact on the economy, with the olive oil producing industry in Portugal estimated to have lost around 80 million Euros due to the 2022 drought.
Impact on Soil Health
The impact of drought on olive oil production goes beyond simply reducing production and quality. Prolonged dry conditions can have a significant impact on soil health, leading to reduced fertility and increased erosion.
Drought conditions can lead to soil cracking, which can reduce soil fertility and increase erosion. Reduction in soil moisture can also lead to a reduction in microbial activity, which can further affect soil health and fertility.
In addition to the immediate impacts on soil health, the long-term impacts of drought on soil health can also be significant. Decreased soil fertility can lead to reduced productivity and plant health, which can affect the long-term sustainability and profitability of olive groves.
Adapting to Changing Conditions
To adapt to the changing conditions brought about by drought, olive oil producers in Portugal can take several measures to improve the resilience and sustainability of their olive groves. Here are some steps olive oil producers can take to adapt to changing conditions:
Improve Water Use Efficiency: Improving water use efficiency is critical to reducing the demand for water resources. Olive oil producers can improve water use efficiency using deficit irrigation techniques, drip irrigation and other water saving techniques. By reducing the amount of water used for irrigation, olive oil producers can help conserve water resources and maintain olive productivity and quality.
Adopting Precision Agriculture: Precision agriculture practices, including the use of sensors to measure soil and leaf moisture, can help olive oil producers optimize their management practices and reduce water usage. By utilizing precision farming practices, olive oil producers can adjust irrigation practices based on real-time data, ensuring olive trees receive the optimal amount of water for their needs.
Managing Soil Health: Maintaining soil health is critical to the productivity and resilience of olive groves. Olive oil producers can improve soil health by using cover crops, reducing soil disturbance and applying organic matter. Improving soil health can increase soil moisture retention and help olive trees cope with reduced water availability.
Using Drought Resistant Olive Varieties: Some olive varieties are more resistant to drought conditions than others. Olive oil producers can choose to plant drought-resistant olive varieties such as Arbequina, Picual and Koroneiki to reduce the impact of drought on olive productivity and quality.
Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Olive oil producers can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by adopting sustainable farming practices, reducing their energy consumption and transitioning to renewable sources. of renewable energy. By reducing their environmental footprint, olive oil producers can help mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce the demand for water resources.
Explore Alternative Water Sources: Olive oil producers can also explore alternative water sources such as rainwater harvesting and wastewater reuse. By capturing rainwater and reusing wastewater, olive oil producers can reduce their dependence on groundwater resources and ensure a more sustainable and resilient water supply.
Early Harvest: Olive oil producers may also consider harvesting their olives earlier in the season to reduce the impact of drought on olive productivity and quality. Early harvesting can reduce water stress in olive trees and help maintain olive quality.
The impact of the 2022 drought on the olive oil producing industry in Portugal was significant, with many olive groves experiencing reductions in production and quality. However, by taking proactive steps to adapt to changing conditions, olive oil producers can improve the resilience and sustainability of their olive groves.
Improve water use efficiency, adopt precision farming practices with sensors for better soil moisture management, use drought-resistant varieties of olives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, explore alternative sources of water and harvesting earlier are critical steps olive oil producers can take to improve the resilience and sustainability of their olive groves.
The olive oil producing industry in Portugal is a critical part of the country's agricultural heritage and it is essential that olive oil producers take measures to protect this industry from the impacts of drought and other environmental challenges. By taking a proactive approach to water management and sustainability, olive oil producers can ensure the long-term productivity and quality of their olive groves, while empowering themselves to mitigate the risks of climate change.