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There is no technical limitation to the complete mechanization of the olive grove

All the attention is paid to the pruning and to the harvesting but in some areas also a simple treatment can be a problem. Moreover, mechanization does not always mean saving

The complete mechanization of the olive grove is possible, but the practical implementation of it remains a matter of research and transfer costs and an evaluation of the actual productive opportunities under different conditions.
Our olive culturing is varied and broad-based (1 million hectares for 1 million of farms); hence, in Italy, the extensive use of mechanization, as Spain did, is difficult and can be adopted by a limited number of farms and in certain regions, only.

In terrace grounds the only solution is represented by facilitators, in particular the electric ones.

In terrace grounds that can be mechanized, on the other side, even with an average-high slope, almost all the operations can be mechanized, prior adjustment of the space around the grove and the shape of farming. In traditional irregular plantings the harvesting can be performed with machines, while pruning can be aided by the use of miniaturized forest processor systems applied to excavators.

In conventional regular plantings (from 6x5 to 7x7m) it is also possible to choose technologies for the automatic detachment and collecting of fallen olives. All the same, only in intensive plantings it is convenient the use to a fruit farming-like mechanization, e.g. the continuous harvesting.

In super-intensive cultures the mechanization can be complete, except for the lateral pruning which can be more easily performed by an electric truncator. The harvesting remains the more difficult operation to mechanize; as a matter of fact, the minimal pruning or no pruning experiences are over.
Moreover, not always the mechanization of olive grove leads to a cost reduction. In a comparison between traditional pruning (ladder, chain saw, shears) and mechanized pruning (topping with cutting bars, fork elevator in place of the ladder, the shears and the chain saw) the latter required more labour. 11,6 minutes per plant in the first case and 16,76 in the second case. Moreover, also the harvesting efficiency was different in the two cases: 90% for the traditional technique and 80% for the mechanized pruning. However, it is also necessary to point out the use of the platform improved the workers’ security and reduced the fatigue.

By concluding, before buying a machine it is necessary to verify the comparison in terms of costs between the labour and the machine. While the first one is a known cost and it is proportional to the actual work, machines are investments; hence, they introduce a business risk.


- Ruffolo Mauro et al, Meccanizzazione della potatura dell’olivo, Atti Progetto Riom, Tomo I, Pagg. 191-194, Rende 2007.
- Vieri Marco, La meccanizzazione integrale dell’oliveto: utopia o prossima realtà?, Accademia dell’Olivo e dell’Olio, Spoleto 2009

by Alberto Grimelli
07 september 2009, Technical Area > Olive & Oil