The Project

mOdelLIng solutions for improVEd and resilient Management strategIes foR olive tree Against future CLimatE change

Over the centuries, olive trees have played an important role as one of the major sources of income and employment in Mediterranean relatively poor rain fed areas. In addition to their agro-economic value, olive cropping systems contributed – when correctly managed – to the preservation of natural resources through the maintenance of soil and the reduction of rainfall’s losses. Olive tree agro-ecosystem is therefore of enormous ecological and economic importance for most Mediterranean countries.
During the last decades, the olive farming industry is experiencing an intensification process that carried along some radical changes in its thousands-year-old agronomic practices. These are moving from low-input traditional plantation to intensified traditional plantation and highly mechanized system. This process led to the first environmental risk caused by intensification: excessive use of water resource. The current forecasts of climate change will likely worsen this picture, and in a way that is difficult to address quantitatively.
The aim of this project is to provide accurate tools to test the effectiveness of adaptation/mitigation management strategies to support long-term investment decision making on olive-tree cultivation across the Mediterranean under current and future climate. A central point will be the harmonization between farmers’ and sustainable ecosystems objectives, coupling olive tree cultivation profitability with the capacity of providing environmental services, to be reached by purposely-developed simulation tools to support decision-making.
Advanced modelling approaches will be used to integrate available physiological knowledge into existing and well established modelling platforms, to assess climate change impact and evaluate mitigation/adaptation strategies by tuning agro-management factors. The analysis will be based on a consistent set of data layers, including weather, soils, and current agro-management information, and it will be conducted against present and short to mid-term future scenarios of climate change. A participatory approach with stakeholders engagement will be exploited through a reiterative process to identify/validate sustainable and economic viable olive tree management practices.
Project outputs will improve olive tree crop modelling by extending model predictive ability to capture olive crop behaviour under a wider range of conditions. This improved capability will be beneficial to properly define olive farming design and the relevant management practices, which aim at optimizing the performances of the agro-ecosystem in terms of improved positive externalities and reduced the negative ones. When applied in a global change context, the proposed framework will be a valid benchmark on which testing the impact of adaptation strategies on both farmers income and ecosystem services providing stakeholders with knowledge input to refine or re-orient breeding programs, and design field operating machinery.