Olive growers adapt to healthy soil to increase production

A FIELD DAY IN THE RAIN... Olive grower, Russ Knight, GSOGA president, Marjan Symington, olive grower and president Olive Victoria, Tina Knight, incoming chair for Australian Olive Growers, Michael Southan and outgoing chair AOA, Greg Seymour. Photo: Steve Hutcheson

By Steve Hutcheson

THE timeline for olives dates back millennia, the oldest tree still living in the Mediterranean climate in Greece is reputedly 4,000 years old. It is the similar climate of the Goulburn Valley that makes it the perfect region to replicate this wonderful plant.

On a day when the region was receiving more than 50mm of rain, local growers, around 40 members of the Goulburn and Strathbogie Olive Growers Association were sitting in a shed near Rushworth listening to experts discuss soil and plant health and the natural cycle that affects it.

Speakers talked about the need to maintain the health of the soil microbes and fungi and the role of microorganisms in determining soil health.

As mentioned during the talks, farming is a relationship involving new technologies and that natural cycle. Everything used in agricultural production has a consequence, some good and at times, bad. Being able to replicate nature is being shown to have as many benefits to production as had the introduction of chemicals now widely used.

Rushworth growers, Russ and Tina Knight, since 2008 have turned their traditional family-owned sheep station, Lisadurne Hill, into a major olive grove with 24,000 trees currently under production, were hosts to the workshop.

As an aside, Russ said, “If bringing together a group for a field day will bring this sort of rain, I will do it every other weekend.”

One of the takeaways from the field day was that growers should be routinely monitoring soil and leaf composition as a measure of soil health and comparing this year on year. Also understanding the role of microorganisms can lead to better productivity and the reduced use of chemicals and as such, greater profitability.