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How the climate change is affecting crop production

How the climate change is affecting crop production

It is getting warmer and warmer. Centuries-old olive trees move to a cooler place, away from sultriness and (new) parasites that threaten their growth.


“The olive tree walks”, old farmers used to say. Today, the symbol of the Mediterranean civilization has started to walk northbound and, in some cases, to climb mountains too. Ten thousand plants in Valtellina, one thousand in Aosta Valley, one hundred thousand specimens in Piedmont, in particular in Ivrea and in Langhe’s area, those plantations nearby Garda Lake and even the olive groves in Wales (in the North of the Anglesey island), testify that climate change is already affecting landscapes and maybe future nutritional habits. Olive is a noble tree that needs light and a little water and that could live up to one thousand years. Drought and rising temperature are putting olive trees at risk as they are infested by parasites flourishing in tropical climates.

According to Agrinnova, the research centre in the agricultural and environmental field of Turin University, 63 new threats are pushing centuries-old cultures towards Alps. One of them is Xylella that infects Salento’s olive trees shrivelling the plants. These intruders, increasingly aggressive because of climate change, are threatening about twenty-one species such as grape, tomato, orange and sunflower. Anyway, we are not facing a mass emigration. At least not yet.

Ismea, Service Institute for Agricultural and Food Market, estimates that out of 150 million plants in Italy, 5 thousand oil mills and more than one million hectares run by 700 farming companies and 220 industrial businesses, the majority of them are settled in Southern or Central Italy. The 96% of the extra virgin olive oil is still produced in the Mediterranean area. Italy ranks second in terms of olive oil produced worldwide, with the 15% of the global market – right after Spain that holds the 40% of the market – and ranks second on export as well. Few years ago Italy also became first importer as Greece and Tunisia that are playing the role of suppliers to Italian ‘trasformers’. In fact, in the last years a decrease of the crop production was recorded due to the abandoned harvest whose amount is 445 tonnes. The drop in production concerned all Italian regions except Piedmont and Sardinia that have respectively increased their output by 40 and 17%.

Oil pouring from mountains worries because climate change affects landscapes and traditional crops. At the same time it sheds the light. Just think about Taggialto production, in Ligurian Apennines, whose olive oil is being served in the finest Italian restaurants and that in winter withstands extreme temperatures at over 500 metres.