I love planting trees, really. But when it comes to re(!)planting: sadness and curiosity, as well as worry, are coming up too.
The productive olive grove that we bought less than a year ago was home to a couple of trees that obviously weren’t healthy. I’m saying “obvious” because even we could detect it 😉 And because some of them were already pruned back close to the ground, hoping for new healthy growth.
Hoping for the best or removing a tree?
It’s a hard decision to take out a tree, always. But especially when knowing that it equals “loosing so many years” until the replacement will come into production. It became clear though that those aforementioned trees were imposing a risk for the whole orchard. And so we had to remove them 🙁
Again, for most diseases and issues we would much prefer attempting to save the tree but in this case, we had to let go: because of verticillium (a non-beneficial soil fungus). Verticillium can spread easily and quickly and wipe out whole orchards.
Infected trees that are clearly suffering
With reading more research on verticillium and doing a lot of (microscopic) soil work lately, there’s is hope though that in the future we can battle this disease. Why is that? Research is confirming that this fungus can only become aggressive and overwhelming in an (at least partially) oxygen depleted soil with anaerobic bacteria. So if we get the soil life back, improve water and oxygen flow, this and other bad fungi will lose out 🙂
Removing the main stem, roots, soil and refilling with new soil
In our younger grove, there was no hope left though for 5 of the 110 baby trees. They simply did not make it through their first summer. The drought was certainly the main factor. There is hope that we might get access to water on this field. The first season they had to do with little water. Only when they were clearly stressed, we hired a tractor-tank to water them.
Not sure what happened here…
Choosing varieties and cultivars for replanting
The choice for the younger grove (“grandpa’s field”, see our original post here) was straightforward: replace with the identical cultivar. There was no change or additional information compared to when we were drawing up our planting scheme. And since the layout is very mixed and experimental anyway, we did not want to make it more chaotic.
For the older orchard, it was not so clear though. And after quite some back and forth we decided to take some risk and plant Koroneiki. This is an amazing variety, very well known to produce great olive oil. It is however not as hardy as our other cultivars and hence not very common in our region. “After the Arbequina and Arbosana, Koroneiki olives are among the most common and suitable for high-density growing systems around the world. The most common variety for oil production, Koroneiki olives cover 50-60% of the acreage in Greece. Koroneiki fruits are small, but have a high-quality oil yield.” (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koroneiki).
It is certainly a bet we are taking, but hopefully one that will payoff after getting the trees through the first risky winters 🙂