Bringing Over-the-Row Harvesting to New Crops
In the early 1990s, in response to olive growers in Spain who were frustrated with the inefficiency and high cost of harvesting standard olive orchards at low density, Agromillora started evaluating the concept of farming olive orchards in a method similar to wine grapes. Over-the-row machine harvesting of grapes had proved to be more cost-saving and efficient than traditional manual harvesting, and Agromillora felt these efficiencies could also be achieved in olives.
The High Density Concept
However in order to make this farming model work in olives, smaller trees would need to be planted into hedge rows at a higher density in order to maintain a structure that could accommodate the over the row harvester. Several dwarfing olive varieties were identified, and in 1994 Agromillora in cooperation with Valonga Farm established the first Super High Density (SHD) Olive orchard. In the early stages of the trial it was found that not only did this new SHD farming method prove to be adaptable to the Over the Row Machine harvest, but it also reached full production several years earlier than standard orchards leading to earlier return for the farmer.
Over the years additional benefits have been proven in the SHD system for olives. Machine hedging has greatly reduced pruning costs in the orchards, and the introduction of new varieties along with orchard establishment and cultivation techniques have allowed for increased yields and less alternating bearing over time. The picking speed offered by harvesting machines as well as the ability to not have the olives picked up from the ground are the fundamental aspects that give the growers the highest chance of the oils that come from their olives to be classified as Extra Virgin, bringing the highest prices. For olive millers this is the essential raw material that, along with sanitary milling practices, will allow them to produce the freshest and highest quality oils.
Adapting Super High Density Systems to Other Fruit
With the introduction of Rootpac 20 from Agromillora in 2010 (which is a dwarfing rootstock for almonds and many stone fruits), and some dwarfing citrus rootstocks the Super High Density farming model is also being adapted to other tree crops with similar goals in mind. These are to produce an economic and efficient farming system that can be machine harvested with existing equipment that will produce sooner at the high level of quality and sanitation. Similar practices have already proven to be highly beneficial in crops such as apples, pears and cherries.
The First Super High Density Orchard
In 2000 the first Super High Density olive orchard was introduced in the United States, and we have seen strong growth in the number of SHD olive orchards being planted every year. With this growth we have also seen many local advancements in orchard development and farming methods. In 2013 the first super high density trial orchards in almond and stone fruit were introduced and we feel that the ingenuity and drive of local farmers will make these orchards successful as well. Agromillora, California will continue to pursue and promote the advancement of rootstocks, varieties and farming techniques that can better the efficiency, quality of farming and economic return to farmers here at home and all over the world.
Early Super High Density Rootstocks
As a part of the agricultural evolution and in an effort to seek more efficient production systems, orchards were intensified due to the rise of new genetic materials (rootstocks) in the different species.
- 1970–1980: M9 rootstock for apple trees.
- 1980–1990: MC rootstock for pear trees.
- The 1990s: Agromillora introduced the high-density system in olive tree orchards with low-vigor varieties, selling more than 120 million Olint plants throughout the world.
- After the year 2000: Gisela rootstock for cherry trees.
Nowadays, Rootpac rootstocks enable the development of almond, peach, nectarine, plum and apricot crops.
Principles of the High Density System
Dwarf rootstocks plus appropriate orchard management
- Increased planting density
- Accelerated production
- Mechanization / cost reduction
- Improved fruit quality
The main advantages and technical aspects of the high-density system specific to each crop are explained in more detail below.