Olive pruning and its importance

Pruning the olive tree, a fundamental practice for its care.

Just as we strive to keep our bodies, our families and our pets clean and tidy, plants also need special care. We advocate pruning in any case, whether it is for the quality of the fruit or the health of a century-old tree. All living beings that are under our responsibility need attention and dedication.

Olive pruning is an agricultural technique that consists of cutting branches and leaves of the olive tree with the aim of improving the growth and quality of the olives. It is an important process in olive tree breeding and is often carried out by experienced olive growers, farmers and gardeners.

The olive tree is an evergreen tree that can live for hundreds of years and requires constant attention to maintain its health and production.

Pruning is mainly carried out during the winter months, when the tree is dormant, to control overgrowth and improve the shape and appearance of the tree. 

By removing dry or diseased branches, it encourages the growth of new branches which will lead to increased olive production.

In addition, by opening up the centre of the olive tree and allowing light to penetrate the canopy, the quality and size of the olives is improved. However, it is important to note that pruning requires skill and knowledge to perform correctly. Incorrect pruning can damage the tree and reduce its production and fruit quality. Therefore, it is important to hire a trained professional to carry out this work.

Benefits of pruning:

1. overgrowth: Without pruning, the olive tree can grow in a disorderly and dense manner, which will make it difficult for light and air to enter the interior of the tree. This can result in a reduced production of poor quality olives.

2. Diseases: Dry and diseased branches can attract insects and fungi, which can spread to other parts of the olive tree and cause serious diseases.

3. Loss of production: By not pruning branches that do not produce olives, the opportunity to stimulate the growth of new branches that can produce olives is lost.

4. Weakening of the tree: the overall result of neglecting the above three points would be poor health of the olive tree and therefore of the olives and the oil.

Types of pruning

1. Formative pruning: This pruning is done in the early years of the tree's life to help shape the crown. Formative pruning is usually carried out in winter or early spring.

2. Maintenance pruning: Maintenance pruning is done annually to maintain the shape and health of the tree. This pruning can be carried out at any time of the year, but it is recommended to do it in winter or in the first months of spring. For example, many olive growers in the Subbetica region of Cordoba have already begun pruning.

3. Green pruning: Green pruning is carried out during the growing season to stimulate olive production and improve fruit quality. Green pruning is usually carried out in summer or autumn. 

Something that is carried out simultaneously with green pruning is the removal of the so-called 'varetas' (at least, this is what it is colloquially called in the Cordovan subbetica and the whole area of Priego de Córdoba, Rute and Carcabuey).  This consists of clearing the trunk of weeds that grow around the trunk. In this way, all the nutrients in the soil surrounding the olive tree are exclusively for the olive tree.

Steps usually carried out by the professional pruner

1. Identify the branch to be cut: The first task is to identify which branch to cut. Dead, diseased or damaged branches should be the first to be pruned. It is also important to cut branches that are growing too much at odd angles or that are hindering the growth of other branches.

2. Decide where to cut the branch: It is important to cut the branch at the point where it joins another branch or the trunk. This point is known as the "bud union". Cutting at this point helps to stimulate the production of new branches and prevents the cut from being an injury to the tree.

3. Use proper pruning techniques: Use pruning techniques that avoid damaging the tree, such as using sharp pruning tools and making clean cuts. Avoid cutting too close to the trunk or other branches, as this can be detrimental to the tree.

4. Leave adequate branches: When choosing which branches to cut, it is important to leave strong, healthy branches that are capable of producing fruit in the future. These branches should be evenly distributed throughout the tree to ensure proper and uniform growth.

If you know how to prune an olive tree or any other tree perfectly, we would love to see the process and for you to explain to us if we need to clarify any point in this article, as we are experts in oil but not in pruning. Our master millers and our olive growers have told us all the keys to pruning and this is what we wanted to pass on to you.  We are waiting for your comments here or at marketing@aceiteslamuralla.com

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