Intensive or traditional olive grove: Differences and benefits

Intensive or traditional olive grove: Differences and benefits

Do you know what the most important characteristics of the intensive olive grove are? And their differences with the traditional olive grove?

If you’re interested in the answer to these two questions, you must read this post to the very end. We’ll also tell you some secrets about the production system at Masía El Altet.

There’s no doubt that what those of us who have olive groves want is to make our production profitable.

But when all’s said and done, what we’re really saying is to make our work profitable and to continue to generate employment in cultivating olives which will, afterwards, give us an extra virgin olive oil of excellent quality.

For those reasons, the intensive olive grove, which it’s hoped will reach 22 per cent of the world’s surface of olive groves in the year 2030, is becoming more and more common.

At Masía El Altet, 70 per cent of our olive grove is already intensive, compared with 30 per cent traditional cultivation.

It has also been calculated that for that date, 2030, 23 per cent of the world’s surface will be undergoing superintensive cultivation.

In the world, there are some 12 million hectares in 63 countries of which 5 million are to be found on Spanish soil.

Spain continues to be the the greatest producer of olive oil in the world, far ahead of Mediterranean countries such as Italy or Greece.

And the Spanish countryside is ‘determined’ to make it profitable.

At Masía El Altet, we’ve already been working in that direction for many years using the best technology in the countryside and irrigation methods which make our harvests the most productive in the world.

Production in the intensive olive grove at Masía El Altet

To be more precise, in years when there is a good harvest, each hectare cultivated produces between 8,000 and 9,000 kilos on the land we cultivate situated in the Mountains of Alicante, whilst in the rest of Spain, the figure is 530 kilos.

That’s to say that the production at Masía EL Altet surpasses the rest of Spanish olive groves in almost 8,000 kilos. The difference is even greater if we compare it to other countries with a tradition in olive oil production such as Italy, Greece or Portugal.

It has to be said that in Spain traditional methods of cultivation still predominate even though it has to be admitted that intensive and superintensive olive groves are on the increase.

Where we work, we look for the greatest benefit in the shortest space of time without ever forgetting the quality of our oil, considered by many experts as one of the best extra virgin olive oils in the world.

All the awards we’ve received during recent years pay testimony to this.

Differences between the intensive and traditional olive grove

The first difference that we find between an intensive olive grove and a traditional one is the how planting is organized.

Our plan is square, 7×7. In other plantations, it normally varies from 8×4 to 6×4, much smaller than in a traditional production system.

What’s the result? It means that in the surface used, you can find the perfect number of olive trees for irrigation in order to ensure the best ratio of quality/ quantity. The number of olive trees that fit into that system of organization is 204.

For example, the system of 7×5 is the best for obtaining the greatest production in intensive olive groves where irrigation is used.  In our opinion, this is a good system for maximising and making the production profitable. In order to obtain maximum quality, the fewer the shadows created by the olive trees, the more hours of sun they’ll receive and the better the photosynthesis will be and as a consquence, the better the olive oils.

However, in areas where cultivation depends on rainfall, the best organization is 8×8. Here, it’s the water reserves in the soil that make the difference.  The roots of the trees don’t have any competition.

When we speak about the intensive olive grove, we’re speaking about leaving wider paths around the edges, between 8 and 10 metres, so that the machinery can manoeuvre without any difficulty thus optimizing the time element.

In explotations of more than 5 hectares, it’s important to mark the alley which crosses the olive grove correctly, about 10 metres in width and with a distance of about 250 metres of trees on either side.  This will be the path the trailers, tractors and lorries will use.

For all of the above reasons, the choice of the planting plan is fundamental for exploitation to begin.

Advantages of an intensive olive grove

We’re now going to offer some of the advantages that the intensive olive grove has over the traditional one. They can be summed up in the following points:

  • In the intensive olive grove and above all, in the first years, the production is much higher than in a system of traditional production, even more so if, as at Masía El Altet, irrigation is used.
  • Production increases and the harvesting time is considerably shorter since the most modern machinery can be introduced. Harvesting the olive and taking it immediately to the oil mill is of the greatest importance in order to guarantee the quality of the extra virgin olive oil.
  • The space in the intensive olive grove is much better used than in the traditional one. It has to be admitted that planting costs are higher in an intensive olive grove than in a traditional one.

And some disadvantages

  • The substitution of olive trees because of strength and exhaustion problems is much greater in intensive systems of production.
  • It’s necessary to be much more watchful in phytosanitary care in order to avoid disease in the trees due to, above all, the lack of light in smaller areas.
  • Investment in an irrigation system is absolutely necessary in order to guarantee results.

With our system of the intensive olive grove, the quality of the olive (early harvest) is guaranteed, achieving greater productivity.

In this post, we’ve wanted to analyse the characteristics and differences between an intensive olive grove and a traditional one. A system that we’ve been developing at Masía El Altet and which seems to be gaining in popularity in other plantations.

Have you found what we’ve told you about intensive olive groves interesting?  If your answer is yes, what about sharing it on your social networks? We’d love you to do so.


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