Olive cultivation is considered as one of the most significant agricultural activities in Greece, from a financial, social and ecological point of view. Contemporary olive cultivation often includes exhaustive use of the available resources having as a result adverse effects for production cost, the environment and the quality of produced food.
The significant progress in technology and know-how during the past decades was not able to fully reverse the situation in the field of plant nutrition. Therefore, reduced performance and high production costs are still a fact for modern farmers.
The oLIVE CLIMA project addresses a multiplicity of environmental issues:
Carbon dioxide surplus in the air, lost from soil – Erosion & Desertification
The issue is of paramount importance and urgency as an adaptation measure to the threatened increase of temperature in the arid south Greece, where the olive forest is growing for more than 5.000 years. Olive trees being evergreen are invaluable to protect soil from erosion and the subsequent threat of desertification. Soil content in organic carbon is below 1.0 to 1.5% in several areas of south Greece i.e. reaching the limit for irreversible desertification process.
Nutrients losses are replaced by environmentally damaging inorganic fertilizers
Olive oil production in conditions of low soil organic matter is dependent on high rates of inorganic fertilizers, among which nitrogen (N) compounds. It should be stressed that olive oil (C18H34O2) does not contain but only traces of N, P or K, since these elements do not contribute to the structure of any of its main constituents. It is well established that the field phase is mostly responsible for GHG emissions during the whole life cycle of olive oil and this is due by large to fertilizers’ production.
Nitrogen losses – Obstacle to the expansion of organic farming
Nitrogen for the Greek environment seems to be the principal limiting factor for the expansion of organic olive culture, given the scarcity and high cost of those fertilizers that are accepted by Regulation 834/2007 for organic agriculture.
Wood burning –Toxicological issues and more GHG emissions
Apart from the losses of fixed CO2 wood burning is troublesome as it releases environmentally and toxicologically active substances (carbon monoxide, benzene and a host of PAHs resulting from incomplete burning).
Olive Oil Mill Waste Water
Another significant local environmental problem in all olive oil producing areas is the disposal of olive oil mill waste water, causing severe point pollution of soil and water (eutrophication) and emissions of bad odors due to polyphenols in the neighboring area.
The reviewed Common Agricultural Policy sets the introduction of sustainable crop management practices on top of priorities at European and national level.
The main aim of the project is to introduce new cultivation practices for tree crops in order to find cost-effective means for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The project will focus specifically on olive-producing areas in Greece, investigating the potential of these areas to increase carbon sequestration by soil, as well as to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. In other words, in this project, a mitigation approach (enhanced CO2 uptake and reduced CO2 emissions) and an adaptation measure (increased soil quality) are tackled at the same time.