On Orto Da Coltivare we have already talked about the pruning of the olive tree and more generally its cultivation, according to the methods of organic farming.
Gian Carlo Cappello proposes a different point of view, with a pruning that does not want to cage the olive tree in the theorized ways of farming but which merely accompanies the plant while respecting its development and the uniqueness of each tree. We leave the floor to Gian Carlo, to tell us the reflections and the principles underlying his approach, but also to give very concrete practical advice, to the point of leaving us with beautiful suggestions on this plant.
Even in olive growing, as in the whole agricultural sector, it is necessary eliminate without preconceptions the tangle of complex, costly and harmful practices that have accumulated over time and are now consolidated in current agriculture. Among these there is a conception of pruning that sees drastic interventions and forcing, entering into conflict rather than respecting the plant.
In my opinion and experience, the cultural aspects are equal to the cultural ones, considering the latter as their direct consequence in application form.
In my seminars on "respectful" care and pruning of the olive tree, I propose an approach that poses common sense as an antidote the psychotic use of agricultural technologies.
Two fundamental principles in olive tree care
To understand the respectful approach to olive pruning there are two basic aspects that must be kept in mind: the purely technical issues and practice in the field adopt these principles.
- A land according to nature. Like all trees, the olive tree also needs untouched soil, in which the congenital stratifications and the covering of the plant material produced by them allow the formation of humus according to Nature.
- The importance of local olive varieties. In Italy we have a wealth of olive trees that derive from the varieties imported from Greece in Roman times. Each territory has changed its original characteristics, especially morphological ones, through a process of pedoclimatic adaptation which lasted centuries and which
Without prejudice to the local specificity and the role of the soil, the growth and productivity of the olive tree are still the result of the basic principles of pruning. L'harmonization of these two aspects is decisive in avoiding the contraindications of the "disrespectful" standardization of industrial crops: tillage, irrigation, reduced planting distances and fertilization exacerbate the reactions of the plant and make pruning interventions necessary detached from the centuries-old process of adaptation to the specific environment; this results in continuous and drastic pruning, years with discontinuous production and the onset of phytopathologies with increasing severity.
Talking about pruning without disregarding these findings is misleading, summing up: the soil must be naturalized and, at least for new plants, choose variety of local tradition respecting their habitus and granting them all the sixth necessary.
How to perform a respectful pruning of the olive tree
In a respectful pruning of the olive tree, the shape assumed by the plant is no longer the result of conditioning according to a rigid scheme (conical, polyconic, vase, espalier, ...) as is currently the case, but responds to individual and contingent conditions and characteristics. In other words, in the overall cultivation practice respect for the individual prevails over forcing aimed at bringing it back to pre-established forms.
For a plant like the olive tree, which, in order to produce good production and stay healthy, cannot be allowed to grow without cesori, this is the maximum of naturalness. The complexity and invasiveness of current techniques and the damage caused by pruning, especially in the presence of mechanization, increase each other and I believe that a simplification of all olive growing practices can no longer be postponed.
The olive tree tends to ascend by sacrificing the lower vegetation and, in part, the innermost one; when we shorten or remove the unproductive ramifications we cause a redistribution of the life force to all parts of the foliage: this principle is the basis of the choices of those who prune.
The containment of the thrust to rise is essentially achieved by decreasing the number of peaks, leaving one of little vigor for each main branch; this will induce the growth of underlying ramifications both from the pedano (the so-called “suckers”) and in the internal parts of the foliage (the “suckers”). But beyond these effects the choice and reduction of the apexes stimulates the strengthening of the distal branches distributed in the middle range of the crown (the "eaves"), those capable of producing.
In naturalized conditions it is sufficient the total removal of the basal and internal ramifications, with a non-invasive sorting of the external branches the selection of which is very easy as those coming out of the previous years appear almost devoid of leaves, especially apical ones (see illustration).
The the period indicated for pruning is the one between the harvest and the end of March, not more than. A respectful pruning can be done with variable frequency e not necessarily every year. It can be cut every 3, 4 or even 5 years, with the only precaution of removing the suckers and suckers at the base during the summer, which we will never find vigorous.
The importance of the olive tree
Since I was a boy I have had a particular affection for the olive tree and I believe that if we are what we are, at least in the West, this is precisely due to its cultivation. The Aramaic term Olat it means "ancient light inside the earth", Attribution due to the extraction of" lampante "oil from the drupe of the olive tree, a safe and lasting source of brightness and heat and probable beginning of the emancipation of mankind from the terror of darkness, in which the random flame of bonfires and torches gave no certainty. It is therefore no coincidence that "holon"In Greek, the language of the first large-scale olive growers, means"all"And perhaps for this reason the empyrean of the Greeks could not be found other than on Mount Olympus.
Like every migrant, when Aeneas fled from Troy he brought with him his own cults and among them olive trees dedicated to Athena. Finding refuge at the mouth of the Tiber, its cultivation in Italic land began. Thus his descendants were the "o-Latins", The inhabitants" of the land of olive trees ", that is"the o-latium": The Lazio.
We owe Athena the mythical creation of the olive tree, which she herself gives to the Athenians and to all humanity. In mythology, Athena is an accomplice of Prometheus in many events and the latter stole from the chariot of the Sun not the fire, but the light to deliver it to humanity. So the accounts add up. And it is under the aegis of Minerva, an o-Latin acquisition of Athena, that the Romans pushed the cultivation of olives to the extreme borders of the Empire.
In the transposition from ancient languages, B and V are interchangeable and it fascinates me to think that "o-libertas”, “freedom", be the state of one who owns olive trees.
The words derived from the initial stock determined by the olive tree and its attributions are enormous: libations, mild, clear, lipid and so on. I would like to emphasize among these the importance for us moderns of the term "holistic”.
But the verbal connection with the olive tree and its derivatives is also present in languages not marked by Latin, just to give a few examples: all, live, life, alive, liebe, ... Once the philology and assonance have been created, everyone can have fun discovering others: it is a virgin territory.
And finally, I invite you to join my praises for the olive tree:
"Up (o) liviam in the happy chalices!"