Olive residues and how to manage them

Olive residues and how to manage them.

Last week we talked about olive pruning and the importance of doing it correctly and, if possible, by an expert pruner. 

Today we get a little "technical" and talk about the waste left by the production of extra virgin olive oil. Unlike the production of industrial consumer goods (clothes, cars, etc.) the production of food and, in our case, of extra virgin olive oil, is a circular process where everything extracted from the olive or olive tree has a second use. Processes like this are almost 100% sustainable, also thanks to the legislation of the last decades and the agricultural and technological advances to make this possible.


Since we are in pruning and "ramón" season, let's start there. It is so called colloquially because the term "ramón" refers to the part of the plant that is cut off during pruning, such as the dried branches and leaves. These branches and leaves are burned in large piles outdoors in a common practice in rural areas. 

However, while the burning of twig may seem like a common and acceptable practice, it can have serious consequences for human health and the environment. Burning twig releases a large amount of air pollutants, including toxic gases and fine particulate matter that can negatively affect air quality and cause respiratory problems. In addition, the burning of twigs can also have a negative impact on soil quality, as the nutrients contained in the branches and leaves are burned and lost instead of being returned to the soil.

This practice can also harm wildlife, as fire can destroy the habitat of many plant and animal species. In order to avoid the negative impacts of burning of ramón, it is recommended to use alternative methods to manage pruning residues, such as composting, shredding and incorporation into the soil. These practices recycle nutrients and improve soil quality, while reducing pollutant emissions and protecting the environment.

Droughts and the scarcity of rain make it even more urgent to legislate on the burning of ramón, since even in autumn and winter there may be a risk of fire in areas of Andalusia such as Cordoba or Jaen or specifically where we are, in the Natural Park of the Sierras Subbeticas de Cordoba. 

According to this link "they could only be burned in the pits if it is demonstrated with technical reports that these remains pose phytosanitary or pest risks". They are trying to extend this legislation because the alternative to burning (crushing, transfer or burial of the twigs) have an extra cost for the farmer, something even more detrimental to the sector at a time when inflation is affecting olive growers enormously.

At Aceites La Muralla's farms we do shred the ramón because we consider that this practice is in line with our values of sustainability and environmental protection and we have the means to do so. Shredding tree and plant prunings, including ramón, can be a sustainable and efficient alternative for managing this waste. Instead of burning them, they can be used as biomass to generate energy, either for domestic or industrial use.


In general, pruning waste does not need to be disposed of completely, as it can be used as organic matter to improve soil fertility and provide nutrients to crops.

However, proper management of pruning waste is important to prevent the spread of pests and diseases, such as grapevine moth or codling moth. These pests can reproduce in pruning debris and spread through crops, causing serious crop damage. To prevent the spread of pests and diseases, the following measures can be followed:

-Perform proper pruning, eliminating pruning remains as soon as possible and avoiding leaving pieces of wood in the field.

-Shred the pruning remains to facilitate their decomposition and avoid the accumulation of organic material in the field.

-Compost the pruning remains, since the composting process can eliminate pests and diseases present in the material.

-Use biological control methods to combat pests and diseases present in the crops.

In summary, pruning waste can be used as organic matter to improve soil fertility, but it is important to manage it properly to avoid the spread of pests and diseases.

Since we have already mentioned the term "biomass", we would like to delve deeper into this key concept for the circular economy to make the concept clearer. Biomass is defined as "the quantity of products obtained by photosynthesis, susceptible of being transformed into useful fuel for humans and expressed in units of surface area and volume". There are different types of biomass that can be used as a source of energy. The following are some of the most common types of biomass:

-Forest residues: remains of trees, branches, leaves and other residues from the forestry industry.

-Agricultural waste: crop residues such as twigs, straw, fruit peels, corn stalks, sugar cane bagasse, among others.

-Food waste: food waste, such as fruit and vegetable peels, olive pits*.

-Food industry waste: residues from olive oil production (olive pomace*), dairy processing, among others.

-Urban organic waste: organic waste from homes and businesses, such as food waste, gardens and parks.

-Energy crops: specific crops grown for use as biomass, such as poplar, bamboo or sugar cane.

These are just a few examples of the types of biomass that can be used as an energy source. The choice of biomass type will depend on its availability, intended use and geographic location.

*We will discuss these aspects in the near future.

As we have mentioned, we will delve more deeply into the term biomass and how in Aceites La Muralla we take advantage of everything the land offers us to use it as much as possible. Today we have focused on olive residues, but in future posts we will talk about alpeorujo (olive pomace) and pits as waste from the production of olive oil.

We have many ideas for posts but if you want to suggest your favorite topics related to olive cultivation or the beneficial uses of olive oil, go ahead, we are all ears, we are listening! 

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