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IPM strategies in the Andalusian olive sector

Ricardo Alarcón Roldán

Director, Plant Health Office.Department of Agricultural and Livestock Production. Regional Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development Government of Andalusia.

Andalusia is the second largest autonomous region in Spain, at just under 9 million ha, as well as its most populous, with almost 8.5 million inhabitants. Agriculture and livestock raising are strategic industries in Andalusia, creating wealth and jobs and helping maintain population levels in the region’s extensive rural areas. Fully 63% of all surface area in Andalusia is dedicated to agriculture or livestock raising, with overall production figures approaching €10 billion.

Andalusia is the second largest autonomous region in Spain, at just under 9 million ha, as well as its most populous, with almost 8.5 million inhabitants. Agriculture and livestock raising are strategic industries in Andalusia, creating wealth and jobs and helping maintain population levels in the region’s extensive rural areas. Fully 63% of all surface area in Andalusia is dedicated to agriculture or livestock raising, with overall production figures approaching €10 billion. 

The main contributors are agricultural crops, which can take many different forms here: Andalusia is home to citrus groves and rice paddies, pastures for grazing and cotton plantations, greenhouses for intensive horticulture or subtropical fruit production, beet fields, cereal crops, vineyards and fruit orchards. However, if there is one crop that defines Andalusia, that moulds our landscape and permeates our people, our art and our traditions, it is the olive. 
Olive groves cover almost 1.5 million ha of land here, 58% of the national total, are responsible for 30% of all jobs in agriculture and are farmed on some 170,000 holdings. Andalusia is the leading producer of olive oil, with production averaging close to one million tons, which is 87% of the national total and 36% of all olive oil produced worldwide. The value of the end product is close to €2.4 million in a sector that targets the export market: olive oil alone represents 15% of Andalusia’s agricultural exports. In this context, it is easy to imagine just how important it is to ensure that olive production in Andalusia is managed properly, given the complexities of the sector and  the difficulties growers face in ensuring minimum profitability, not to mention the large number of olive varieties grown, which means that there is no single "recipe for success” guiding producers’ management decisions. It goes without saying that all agricultural producers today, whether they are growing olives and olive oil or another crop, must make quality their priority. Quality must be defined broadly, taking into account organoleptic, sensory and health factors, but it must also consider environmental sustainability as well as any possible socioeconomic impact. 
This is how the Andalusian olive sector must position itself if it wishes to achieve its goals. The introduction of integrated pest management has been one of the more ambitious goals set for the Andalusian olive sector, and the creation of producer groups for integrated control in agriculture (known as ATRIAS in Spanish) in the early 1980s played a vital role in achieving this. Originally developed for the cotton industry, the model spread quickly to other crops, proving both effective and profitable, and it continues to exist today. In 2013, Andalusia had 38 such producer groups, representing over 4,700 producers, applying IPM techniques in almost 70,000 ha of land growing a range of crops, including olives. An integrated pest management strategy should, of course, constitute just one of the pillars underpinning the production of "quality” crops; it should not be the only factor, but rather one of many farming practices used to set the sustainable olive grove apart from those groves whose days are numbered. For this reason, the system has been forced to evolve toward a more holistic model that takes into account all the factors contributing to the agricultural ecosystem, which are of course interrelated. 
This is why the mid-nineties saw the emergence of integrated production models not just in Andalusia but in other regions of Spain as well. Thus, through the introduction of new rules to help guide decision-making and the involvement of qualified technicians, it has been possible to achieve the objectives of sustainability, quality and profitability in each crop. Today, integrated production is present throughout Andalusia. In 2013, 520,000 ha were farmed under this system, with olives being the main crop grown, at 365,000 ha or 65% of the total surface area under integrated production in the region. In other words, 25% of all olives in Andalusia are currently grown using integrated production methods. Other major crops employing this model are cotton (49,000 ha), rice (37,000 ha) and durum wheat (40,000 ha). 
The integrated production approach, ATRIAS producer groups and organic farming thus comprise the three main systems underpinning the application of integrated pest management in the Andalusian olive sector, in compliance with the national model as set out in RD 1311/2012, which establishes the framework for achieving the sustainable use of plant protection products. If we combine these three elements, we see that approximately 30% of all olives in Andalusia are already being produced using IPM techniques. 
One major challenge with respect to IPM lies in the provision of training and information. In this respect, new technologies offer a unique opportunity for ensuring that data can be provided quickly and affordably to a large number of people. Although the proper application of IPM requires detailed knowledge of the minimum plot unit for which decisions are to be taken, it is helpful to know how the most important pests are evolving, or to have access to the latest climate data or potential risk levels for diseases. This is the aim of the Andalusian Plant Health Alert and Information Network (RAIF in Spanish), which can be accessed at www.juntadeandalucia.es/agriculturaypesca/raif.This portal deals with issues related to plant health, offering news from the sector, details of upcoming events, weekly alerts and bulletins with information broken down by province and by crop, resources and training material, as well as a GIS tool with weekly data on pest levels for various crops in each region. In this way, through expert advice, information, training and research, we can achieve our goal of creating a modern, profitable and high-quality olive sector.

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Data protection policy

In accordance with the Organic Law on the Protection of Personal Data 15/1999, of 13 December, Promotora de Exportaciones Catalanas SA (hereinafter PRODECA), whose address is Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 620, principal, 08007 Barcelona, with tax reg. no. NIF A58241316, declares that the images contained on the website www.smartfruitcongress.cat are included in a file belonging to PRODECA. The purpose of this file is the promotion, via its website, of the activities conducted by PRODECA – SmartfFruit IPM International Congress.

PRODECA guarantees that you may, at any time, exercise your right to access, rectify, cancel or oppose by writing to the aforesaid postal address, using the reference "PROTECCIÓN DE DATOS - SMARTFRUIT", or to the email address smartfruitcongress@smartfruitcongress.cat.

Specifically, to correctly exercise these rights you must clearly provide the following items in that communication:
- Name, surname(s) and photocopy of National Identity Document or Passport.
- Statement of the purpose of the request.
- Address for notification purposes.
PRODECA also declares that it reserves the right to delete from its website any content that it considers violates current and applicable legislation.

D’acord amb l’article 17.1 de la Llei 19/2014, la ©Generalitat de Catalunya permet la reutilització dels continguts i de les dades sempre que se'n citi la font i la data d'actualització i que no es desnaturalitzi la informació (article 8 de la Llei 37/2007) i també que no es contradigui amb una llicència específica.