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A new report has found that high density groves account for more than a third of global olive oil production, Olive Oil Times wrote on 10 October.

Although “super high-density” groves make up approximately 3% olive-growing hectares in the world, their yield has increased to 36% of global olive oil production, according to the study conducted by Juan Vilar Strategic Consultants and published by Spanish tree nursery company Agromillora.

According to the study, of the 11.6Mha of olive groves in 66 countries, 400,000ha are intensively farmed.

The share of olive oil production produced by intensive farming is likely to grow, according to experts.

“Super high-density groves”, also known as hedge olive orchards, comprise about 1,600 olive trees/ha, and they are mechanically managed.

According to Agromillora, this method of farming allows greater productivity and lower workforce costs due to the high mechanisation, early entry into production and efficient harvesting.

“This type of harvest allows the olive to be harvested at the correct state of maturation and a quick delivery of the fruits to the mill for transformation, reducing the deterioration that they may suffer and the possible undesirable flavours or aromas in the oil,” the company was quoted as saying.

Although not all groves were suitable for this approach due to their dependence on water availability and mostly flat landscapes, growers could adopt specific cultivars which had been shown to offer the best results in such an environment, such as Arbosana, Koroneiki or Manzanilla, the study said.

According to Agromillora, harvesting a hectare of super high-density olive trees requires a maximum of one or two hours, with harvesting costs reduced to €0.03-€0.06/kg (US$0.029-US$0.059).

The authors of the study also claimed that super high-density groves could improve sustainability and biodiversity.

However, a study by the University of Jaén in 2021 concluded that intensive agricultural practices in olive groves usually caused biodiversity loss by putting intense pressure on plants, birds and insects, Olive Oil Times wrote.