After an unusual spring frost that ravaged southern France in April, olive oil producers expect the upcoming harvest to be heavily impacted.
FranÃ§ois Aurouze, land and agricultural expert at Vignoble Conseil, said it usually takes time to notice the impact of frosts on the harvest, but In addition to this, you need to know more about it.“this had the effect of burning the young shoots bearing the future flowers. As a result, the harvest could be partially destroyed.
We have to wait until harvest time to assess precisely how much this will affect crop yields this year, as we estimate a loss of at least 20 percent.
He estimates that frost damage could cause the crop to shrink by 25 to 30 percent.
Photos sent to Olive Oil Times show olive trees damaged by frost in the Var department, located in the center of the south-eastern region of Provence-Alpes-CÃ´te d’Azur. A tree has only two small olives at the end of the branch. The other olives never bloomed after the frost destroyed the buds.
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On April 8, temperatures in the south of France fell to â7 Â° C, damaging many crops in the departments of Var and Bouches-du-RhÃ´ne. It was the worst frost since 1956, when the frost destroyed millions of olive trees across France and forced farmers to abandon their plantations.
“When temperatures are so extreme, nobody can do anything, âsaid Christiane Lambert, president of the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions. In addition to this, you need to know more about it.“Nature imposes itself on us.
The extreme weather event, which some farmers fear will become increasingly frequent due to climate change, has forced the French government to announce an agricultural disaster and pledge â¬ 1 billion in financial support.
However, the National Federation of Farmers Unions warns that the damage could be closer to 3 billion euros.
Anne and Gilles Brun are owners of the Moulin du Calanquet, in Saint-RÃ©my-de-Provence, commune of Bouches-du-RhÃ´ne. The couple’s olive grove is made up of 15,000 olive trees, covering 80 hectares. They estimate that the frost damaged 80 percent of the trees on 27 hectares of the grove.
During the last harvest, the Moulin de Calanquet produced 65,000 liters of olive oil of five varieties: Grossane, Verdale, Aglandau, Salonenque and Picholine.
“We have the know-how, a lot of experience of the land, so persistence and optimism are important, âGiles Brun told the Olive Oil Times. In addition to this, you need to know more about it.“We are working to increase the harvest for the next two years.
Brun keeps a close watch on the olive grove thanks to sensors on the trees which provide him with a wealth of data. The olive grove is equipped with drip irrigation to provide a balance of water and nutrients, working night and day to achieve optimal growth results.
The Bruns are studying various solutions to avoid freezing, with costly implications.
“We need 13,000 candles, but to place them in the olive grove, we have to hire the entire population of Saint RÃ©my de Provence, âhe said. In addition to this, you need to know more about it.“It would be too expensive. “
“Another solution could be to use water which forms an ice cube on the tree to protect it, âhe added. In addition to this, you need to know more about it.“The best solution is to use amino acids to make the tree stronger.
About an hour north of the Moulin de Calanquet is Via Caritatis, a monastery in the heart of Provence that consists of a vineyard and a vast olive grove.
During the last harvest, the monastery produced 1,300 liters of oil, a low yield year. This year, Via Caritatis producers expect around 1,000 liters, down from the usual output of around 1,700 liters.
Gabriel Tessier, the monastery’s development director, said the April 8 freeze had drastic consequences for their succession.
“Two large plots of olive trees were completely frozen overnight and will not produce any fruit this year, âhe said. In addition to this, you need to know more about it.“We have to wait until harvest time to assess precisely how much this will affect crop yields this year, as we estimate a loss of at least 20 percent.
Spring frost is nothing new for the producers of the monastery. According to Tessier, the FÃªtes des Saints, from May 11 to 13, are also known as Ice Saints because they coincided with late frosts.
Generally, Via Caritatis growers mitigate the potential damage of these frosts by pruning the trees just at harvest time rather than in the spring, which allows branches to develop in a non-frost-prone period and promotes flowering of the trees. fruits in the following year.
Growers also carefully select where they will plant new trees based on previous frost events.
However, after the most recent freezing event, Tessier is not sure what result these current methods have in combating the effects of freezing.
Aurouze believes that using straw fires in groves or installing wind turbines, which mix layers of warmer air farther from the ground with cooler layers to prevent freezing, are solutions. possible for growers to mitigate the risk of spring frosts.
He also recommends pruning olive trees at the last possible opportunity after the risk of April frost has disappeared. However, he added that In addition to this, you need to know more about it.“with climate change, spring frosts will undoubtedly be more and more frequent.