The effect of irrigation level and harvest mechanization on virgin olive oil quality in a traditional rain-fed 'Souri' olive orchard converted to irrigation

Arnon Dag, Alon Ben-Gal, Uri Yermiyahu, Loai Basheer, Yogev Nir, Zohar Kerem*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Olive trees are generally grown under rain-fed conditions. Since yield response to application of water in the growing season may be considerable, irrigation is increasingly introduced to existing, mature orchards. An additional feature of modernization of olive cultivation is mechanical harvesting. To investigate the effect of irrigation level on the quality of virgin olive oil (VOO) produced from cv. Souri, six regimes, ranging from deficit to excess, were applied to trees in a mature, traditional orchard as it was converted to irrigation. Furthermore, in order to investigate the effect of damage incurred during harvest, oil quality of hand-picked fruit was compared to that of mechanically harvested olives. RESULTS: Data were collected from two consecutive growing seasons. Increased irrigation quantity increased the free acidity level of the oil and decreased the total phenol content of VOO, while the peroxide level of the oil was not affected. Oil of hand-picked fruits had lower free acidity, higher polyphenol content and slightly lower peroxide level compared to the oil of mechanically harvested olives. CONCLUSION: Fruits from irrigated trees demonstrated an apparent sensitivity to mechanical wounding that subsequently led to increased free acidity, increased peroxide level and decreased total phenol content in oil. Management of irrigated orchards including method and timing of harvest and oil extraction techniques should consider these results in order to optimize production of high-quality oil.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1524-1528
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Volume88
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2008

Keywords

  • Free fatty acid
  • Irrigation
  • Olive oil
  • Peroxide
  • Polyphenols

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