search is always on for the ever elusive 'best' variety of olive.
Growers want to know "Which is the best oil variety?"
or "Which variety gives the nicest flavoured table
olives?". These questions stem from human nature's desire
for the best, most worthy and most profitable things in life.
However, in the olive industry, as with any horticultural industry,
the 'best' variety has many variables.
better question to ask, although more difficult to answer, is,
"Which varieties best suit my property's climate and will
in the long term give me the greatest quality and financial
readers of the Australian Olive Grower will realise that
there is no such variety as the 'best oil variety' or 'nicest
flavoured table olive'. Each variety has its strengths and
weaknesses and must be judged in the light of both. In addition
to this, each person (consumer) has their own personal preferences
of oil types and fruits. Ultimately, it is the final consumer
who will be the judge of quality and variety. With these points
in mind, we can begin to assess how many varieties a grower should
plant to assist a strong market position and the best possible
In general, groves should have at least three cultivars to assist
with pollination and to improve fruit set. Research is continuing as to
which oil cultivars are best for pollinating each other.
market position is a major key to economic success. As
with a food store, the quality and variety of products sold influences
buyers towards or away from a business. How much business would
a store get if it only carried one breakfast cereal, one
type of fruit and one cooking oil? Whether you are planning
to process and market your own oil and fruit, or simply sell your
fruit directly to a processor, having only one variety will limit
your ability to sell efficiently.
example, if you are selling one variety of fruit and one variety
of oil direct from your property in a 'cellar door' type situation,
then your neighbour who has three varieties will attract more
customers. In fact, when your long term regular customers
find out about next door's range, they could slowly change their
loyalties because they begin to view the producer next door as
a "one stop shopping spot". The producer with
a number of varieties and presentations has an even stronger
market advantage because buyers will often purchase 'one of each'
just to try them, thereby increasing their turn over.
With most agricultural and horticultural pursuits it is
important to be able to 'follow the market' in any given
season. If variety A is giving a high price then it would
be mighty nice to have a good crop of it coming off the
trees. However, if you only have variety B and it hasn't given
a good price in three seasons, then you are naturally not as well
off. Fortunately, olive oil is not solely judged on the variety
name (see point 4). Having a number of varieties allows you to
'follow the market' more easily than if you only plant a
The success of a good wine often lies in the blend
of grape varieties used in its processing. It is the same
with olive oil. Although varietal oils are becoming more common
in various parts of the world, by far the majority are still blends
of various varieties to give certain flavours. Increasingly,
the palate of the final consumer determines the type of oil sold
and the blend of varieties within that oil.
oils have very individual characteristics which are not always
as widely accepted as blended oils. Having a number of varieties
available for blending increases the marketability of any grove's
bearing and seasonal climatic changes also effect the
economy of an olive grove. Alternate bearing can be somewhat controlled
with various pruning, irrigation, tree spacing and varietal choices
and a dry year can easily be corrected with additional irrigation.
However, each variety reacts in its own way to such factors
and having a small spread of varieties reduces the possible economic
By now you may be thinking, "If two varieties are better
than one, then ten are even better than two!" Although
seemingly logical, this is definitely not always true in an olive
first obstacle in such a situation is harvest timing. Although
a large grower may want to spread the harvest period over as long
a period as possible and therefore choose varieties which range
from very early maturing to very late, it is not economical for
a contract harvester to visit a small grove two or three times
during a season as each group of varieties ripens. With a small
to medium sized orchard of three varieties, it is often
best to have two early's and a mid, or two mid's and a late.
As such, harvesting can all be done at once when two varieties
are at their peak (just turning black for oil olives) and the
other is either still green or fully black.
a table fruit perspective, it can become very difficult to
process olives of various sizes and ripeness. As such, it is better
to perfect the processing of a few varieties rather than producing
average quality fruit of many. Having too many varieties will
often leave you with stock of varieties which do not sell
as well as others do. Stock that won't sell can be worse than
no stock at all.
article is not designed to deter growers who are planning to specialise
in the production and marketing of a single varietal olive
product. Ours is a world of specialisation, and today it is the
specialists who are succeeding in all facets of business. It has
been said that, "It's OK to put all of your eggs in one basket,
but you'd better keep a good eye on that basket!"
fully realise that there are arguments for and against many of
the above points. However, for the majority of growers about three
varieties will give the best economic returns and therefore the
most smiles for generations to come.