Olive paste oil content on a dry weight basis (OPDW): an indicator for optimal harvesting time in modern olive orchards
Keywords:Near infrared, Oil yield potential, Olea europaea L, Olive paste
In modern oil olive orchards, mechanical harvesting technologies have significantly accelerated harvesting outputs, thereby allowing for careful planning of harvest timing. While optimizing harvest time may have profound effects on oil yield and quality, the necessary tools to precisely determine the best date are rather scarce. For instance, the commonly used indicator, the fruit ripening index, does not necessarily correlate with oil accumulation. Oil content per fruit fresh weight is strongly affected by fruit water content, making the ripening index an unreliable indicator. However, oil in the paste, calculated on a dry weight basis (OPDW), provides a reliable indication of oil accumulation in the fruit. In most cultivars tested here, OPDW never exceeded ca. 0.5 g.g–1 dry weight, making this threshold the best indicator for the completion of oil accumulation and its consequent reduction in quality thereafter. The rates of OPDW and changes in quality parameters strongly depend on local conditions, such as climate, tree water status and fruit load. We therefore propose a fast and easy method to determine and monitor the OPDW in a given orchard. The proposed method is a useful tool for the determination of optimal harvest timing, particularly in large plots under intensive cultivation practices, with the aim of increasing orchard revenues. The results of this research can be directly applied in olive orchards, especially in large-scale operations. By following the proposed method, individual plots can be harvested according to sharp thresholds of oil accumulation status and pre-determined oil quality parameters, thus effectively exploiting the potentials of oil yield and quality. The method can become a powerful tool for scheduling the harvest throughout the season, and at the same time forecasting the flow of olives to the olive mill.
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