Spring Ranch Update: Flowering Olive Trees … Eyeing the Drought

Our olive trees are flowering here at the ranch. Baby olives will appear soon. At the same time, however, a historic drought continues to grip California. Water remains precious for farmers. We spoke about these and other issues with our own rancher, Brian Mori. Brian works with our family farmers, or contract growers, on crop practices, harvest, and quality. Artois - April

Where are the trees at now in terms of olive development?

They’ve begun flowering and are going through the first flower-bud development. In about two weeks those flowers will open, which is when pollination occurs. The fruit will begin to set following pollination. And usually after this – about one to two weeks – you’ll begin to see baby olives.

What’s the status of the drought?

We’re still in drought conditions. We did get some help from late rains this spring. But water remains limited in California. We’ve not had any drought-busting rains. And we’re past the rainy season, which typically occurs from late November to mid-March. Consequently, water will be monitored very closely.

Have the dry conditions affected the trees and their potential to produce olives? Artois Olive Trees

Not at this point. It’s still very early in the season. From the way things are looking now, it looks to be an early season – much like 2013, when we had a dry, warm spring.

Have you had to irrigate more than usual?

At this point we’re on a more normal irrigation practice for this time of spring. Olive trees are pretty drought tolerant. You can maintain a tree with very limited water. The issue is whether the dry conditions affect the trees’ ability to produce olives.

When will you get a handle on the size of this year’s crop – and the quality of the olives?

We usually begin to know about mid-July.

What’s keeping you and the ranchers busy in the olive groves?

Our focus is on irrigation and fertilization. It’s what we call a critical nutrient demand period. So fertilization and irrigation are critical at this point.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch