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Current SA Olive Research Projects

The SA Olive Industry Association is currently busy with the on-going research of the following projects.

Investigating the identity, biology, economic damage and distribution of olive seed wasps in cultivated olives in the Western Cape, South Africa.

The objectives are to (1) confirm taxonomic identity of seed wasp/s infesting commercial olives in the Western Cape, (2) study the life cycle and seasonal occurrence of olive seed wasps (OSW), (3) determine OSW economic damage potential, (4) determine cultivar susceptibility to OSW, and (5) to determine the geographical distribution and abundance of OSW in all olive growing regions. This information is required to develop monitoring and control strategies.

Duration: 2014-2018 Project leader: Dr E Allsopp (ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij)

Improved management of olive trunk diseases.
  • Determine the incidence and distribution of olive trunk pathogens in olive nurseries and propagation material in the Western Cape using conventional isolation techniques and newly developed molecular detection and identification tools;
  • Determine the pathogenicity of fungi frequently associated with symptomatic olive wood toward olive trees;
  • Investigate the epidemiology of important olive trunk disease pathogens by determining the potential of pruning debris and indigenous Olea species to serve as inoculum sources and alternative hosts for important olive trunk pathogens in the Western Cape Province;
  • Investigate the susceptibility of pruning wounds for infection by important olive trunk pathogens and evaluate potential pruning wound protectants.

Duration: 2016-2018 Project leader: Dr F Halleen (ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij)

Sustainable Table Olive Processing

Preliminary fermentation trials will entail the determination of baseline populations, i.e. identification of microbes (yeast and bacteria strains) involved during the green olive fermentation process. Olives from various cultivars, regions and treatments will undergo spontaneous fermentation in preliminary trials with the view to source potential beneficial microorganisms. Cultures from successful fermentations will then be isolated and the most promising microbes selected, cultured and used singly or in combination for inoculation in subsequent trials.

Chemical and biochemical analyses of the brine will be carried out, simultaneously at sequential stages of fermentation, to determine which are the microorganisms of importance for future commercial inoculation and which are responsible for the breakdown of bitter components into non bitter phenolics; to determine possible negative effects of microbe strains on softening through cellulase or pectinase activity. Optimum environmental conditions for fermentation (salt concentration, pH, temperature) which will result in a product of acceptably high quality with good shelf life and food safety will be determined experimentally. Trials will be conducted to enable the re-use of fermentation brine as a packing brine to eliminate harmful pollution of environment. The stability, safety and health aspects of end product will be investigated to ensure that the product conforms to the Codex Alimentarius of the FAO. Sensory evaluation trials of the end-products, using a trained tasting panel will be run to give objective evaluation of the process and help to determine market acceptance of the end-product.

Duration: 2017-2020 Project leader: Mr C Costa (ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij)

Seed Wasps in Olive Groves

Dr Elleunorah Allsopp of the Agricultural Research Council talks about the damage caused by the seed wasps to olive groves. (Fast-forward to Second Interview)

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