Olive Tree Harvest – Production Yield of Olive Trees
There is a great debate on the optimum harvest time for olives. It depends greatly on weather conditions, olive tree variety, and cultivation methods. It also differs on whether we cultivate olive tree for table olives or for olive oil. Picking the right time is a matter of accumulated experience and can give the olive grower a competitive advantage in terms of production yield, organoleptic characteristics, color, taste, aroma. Generally, high temperatures during the fall result in early ripening and vice versa. There are many maturity indexes that set the standards for mature olives.
The average olive production of a mature olive tree ranges between 50-200 pounds (22 to 90 kg). There are of course striking exceptions, as there are cases in which a single olive tree produced 1800 lbs. (820 kg) olives. However, olive trees have to be more than 30-40 years old in order to achieve yields well above average. As a rule of thumb, the production of non-irrigated olive trees is directly related to their age, meaning that a 100 years old tree can normally produce more than what it produced when it was 60 years old. On the contrary, irrigated trees reach their most productive period at the age of 50-65 years.
Harvesting olives can be made by hand or through sophisticated machines. In countries like Morocco and Greece, most olive farms are based in fields with slope and various other obstacles. As a result, mechanical harvesting is very difficult. Most olive farmers in these countries harvest the olives by hand. They use simple or electrical devices that shake the branches, making the olives drop in the ground. Then, they collect the olives, they put them in special bags and they deliver them to the mill normally during the same day. On the other hand, mechanical harvesting requires high density (SHD) olive harvesters. These harvesters are consisted of a tall tunnel, a movable cab, extended catching length, a full height picking system, and catcher plates. The machine passes over the tree, and inside the tunnel the branches are shaken, so that the olives drop in the plates. However, this method (mainly used in California) can only be applied in fields where the trees have limited height and are planted under certain patterns.
Generally we shall deliver our olives to the mill immediately after harvesting them, because if stored they face multiple risks that may affect their quality.
On average, 3 to 7 lbs. of olives result in 1 lbs. of olive oil.
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12.) Harvesting Olives
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