Turkish olive oil sector is gradually improving, consumers are becoming more concious

What is the work of the Olive Research Institute in the olive and olive oil sector in Turkey?

Olive Research Institute has the mission of leading the olive sector on national and international platforms, developing innovations and technologies through R&D studies, providing training on national and international platforms, and ensuring olive sustainability.

What projects related to the olive and olive oil sector are you currently carrying out?

I carry out 3 project:

1) Investigation of Medicinal Aromatic Plants in Olive Cultivation in Intercropping Agriculture System (Project Leader)

In recent years, the negative effects of climate change and increasing population threaten food security. Especially agricultural lands are very vulnerable to both climatic and environmental changes and excessive use of land. In order to prevent or minimize these negativities against both environmental and climatic changes, the intercropping system is implemented as an important alternative in the world.

The question of what are the differences between traditional olive farming and olive farming according to the agroforestry intercropping farming system constitutes the main question of the study, and the sub-questions to be answered within the framework of this basic question are as follows:

  • Which of the medicinal aromatic species selected as intercropping products is suitable for olive cultivation?
  • Does soil microbial diversity have an effect on the intercrop system?
  • How do water consumption and water use efficiencies change in traditional olive farming and olive farming according to the agroforestry intercropping farming system?
  • What is the effect of drip irrigation method on microbial activity in the soil in the agroforestry intercropping system?
  • Does the agroforestry intercropping system provide economic benefits compared to traditional olive farming? Can farmers earn additional income?
  • Do medicinal and aromatic plants have a repellent effect on the olive fly pest?
  • Do medicinal aromatic plants affect the yield of olives and olive oil?
  • Do medicinal aromatic plants affect the physicochemical analysis and aroma of olive oil?

2) Evaluation of the Potential of Different Rainwater Harvesting Methods Monitored with Smart Digital Soil Moisture Sensors in Sustainable Olive Production in Terms of Soil and Plant Characteristics and Socioeconomics (Ege University (project leader) and TAGEM partnership) (TAGEM Project Leader)

According to the 6th Assessment Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it indicates a global warming of 2.7-3°C in regions under the influence of the Mediterranean climate.It is predicted that the availability of both surface water and groundwater will decrease in parallel with the decrease in total precipitation in the region and higher evaporation due to warming (Ali et al., 2022).

In the effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on food, health, water and climate, pressure on land is likely to increase.To prevent further land degradation and promote land restoration, there is a need for multifunctional use of land within the boundaries of the soil-water system. Additionally, it is important to raise awareness and bring about a change in the attitudes of stakeholders and the economy.

Achieving a balance between economy, society and biosphere requires a holistic approach. Nature-based solutions such as sustainable use and management of soil-water systems; efficient water management is the key to reducing consumption, controlling network losses and reducing evaporation, and is closely related to a healthier soil system.

Based on these points, the project proposal evaluates the potential of eliminating the drought problem, which will continue to increase in the Mediterranean Region due to global climate change, with different rainwater harvesting methods in olive, the main crop plant of the region, from the perspective of soil-plant-producer, on the basis of retaining rainwater and preserving soil moisture. aims to reveal.There is no action plan yet for the sustainability of olive cultivation in our country. In this context, the proposed project aims to reduce the negative effects of climate change and ensure the sustainability of olive cultivation.

The fact that no literature has been found in which water harvesting with different cover materials and water harvesting in olive agriculture is studied with a holistic approach reveals the originality of the project proposal.

What is meant by the holistic approach is to instantly monitor the effect of different rainwater harvesting methods on soil moisture content in drought-based sustainable management of olive fields, which is a Mediterranean plant, with smart digital volumetric soil moisture sensors; soil biodiversity and the physiological, biochemical and molecular responses of the olive plant are evaluated together and associated with quality parameters, additionally, it is a perspective that includes a socioeconomic approach in which the economic analysis of applied water harvesting methods is combined with producer behavior.

3) Women of the City Scented with Olives (Training woman project) (Project Leader)

Olive cultivation, climate change and fertilization training is given to producer 60 women in Seferihisar, Çeşme and UrlaDistricts. Lavender planting is carried out in women producer gardens by explaining the applied intercroopingagriculture system. Making soap and bokashi compost with the aim of producing value-added products is explained.

How is this research contributing to the development and modernisation of the olive and olive oil sector?

All of these studies provide issues of mitigation and adaptation to climate change, which may lead to the destruction of yield, quality and biodiversity, especially olive genetic resources, which turn into a climate crisis. All of these projects develop solutions against climate change and increase the awareness of producers, consumers and the olive sector.

 What is the situation of the olive grove and olive oil sector in Turkey?

In my opinion, the situation of the Turkish olive and olive oil sector is gradually improving. Consumers' increasing awareness about health has changed their perspective on olives and olive oil, which are direct sources of healing.Consumers have started to look at the polyphenol values and peroxide values in olive oil and their interest in properly obtained olive oils has increased.

Producers have started to cultivate olives more consciously due to the increasing number of diseases and pests due to climate change. Local increases have begun in boutique production, especially in olive oil pressing. Olive planting has begun to increase in vacant lands.Compared to the past, the demand for olives and olive oil has started to increase with awareness.

At present, what are the main olive varieties grown in Turkey and how are they evolving in recent years?

Today, there are nearly 100 registered olive varieties in Turkey. However, 6 of them are the main types. Varieties such as Ayvalık (Edremit), Gemlik, Memecik, Erkence, Uslu, Domat are the main varieties.

In recent years, climate change and the inability to meet the cooling needs of these varieties in certain regions may lead to a decrease in yield and regional changes in the varieties.

In countries such as Spain and Portugal, the weight of super-intensive and hedgerow olive groves, and even intensive irrigated olive groves, is increasing in relation to their production. Has Turkey also benefited from these new models or is the olive grove still basically traditional and family-based?

In recent years, due to the increasing demand for olive oil, many important steps have been taken in cultivation. In particular, the perspective of producers has changed within the scope of adaptation to climate change, such as no-till agriculture, drip irrigation system, water harvesting, mulching, cover material, compost use, intercropping and shredding of pruning residues.

What are the main challenges facing olive production in Turkey today, and what about the future?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge awaiting Turkey is basic factors such as changing climatic conditions, sudden storms, heavy rains, hail, frost, high temperature or low temperature, which may pose a threat to the extinction of olive species. The decrease in fruit and yield in recent years is matched by the lack of cold weather that can meet the need for cooling. These can cause serious trouble.

I think that in the future, a more tropical climate will prevail in the southern regions, and some olive species will disappear in the northern regions and other olive species will replace them. I foresee shifts in the growing areas of olive species.

How can the Congress help to further boost the sector in Turkey and contribute to its growth?

The congress is very important for us because ideas to combat climate change may emerge. We can support each other across countries. Subject matter experts can exchange ideas among themselves. We can learn what is happening in the world thanks to the congress.