Water stress, soaring temperatures threaten olive trees

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AMMAN — Olive trees in Jordan are wilting due to soaring temperatures and sweltering heat, according to the National Agricultural Research Center (NARC). As a result, their olives are expected to ripen prematurely.اضافة اعلان

NARC researcher Murad Al-Maaitah told Jordan News that the effects on the trees and fruit will be “temporary”, but noted that the heat will reduce the ability of the roots of the olive tree to absorb water.

“The leaves absorb water from the fruit itself” to maintain a balance in the plant which can “cause the creasing and wrinkling of the fruit”, Maaitah said. “At night, when temperatures fall, the fruit returns to its normal size and shape,” he added.

The premature ripening of the olives will affect the amount of oil that can be extracted from them, the researcher said.

He said that farmers using drip irrigation must water their trees in the early morning and immediately before sunset, while those using immersion irrigation should water their trees at night. He also recommended farmers use potassium in their compost to promote resilience against heat and drought and grow larger fruits.

Saleh Al-Shdiefat, a professor in horticulture and fruit tree physiology, told Jordan News that the heat will stress most plants — the olive tree in particular. Olive trees comprise between 70 and 75 percent of all fruit trees cultivated in Jordan.

He said that high temperatures negatively affect the trees’ photosynthesis; the process’ efficiency decreases above 35°C and ceases entirely above 40°C. Photosynthesis is an enzyme-based process that stops at higher temperatures.

“The process of losing water through the pores of the leaves increases as the temperature increases, causing the leaves to wilt and the fruits to wrinkle,” he said.

“This phenomenon is more (prevalent) in rainy areas than in irrigated areas,” he noted.

Omar Shoshan, chairman of the Jordan Environmental Union, said that climate change affects many sectors, primarily the agricultural sector.

He stressed that rising temperatures affect the growth of crops, including olives, which rely on rainwater.

“They are most affected by the high temperatures,” he said. He added that the south of the country has only seen 37 percent of its usual rainfall, while the rest of the Kingdom saw average precipitation.

He explained that the change in rainfall patterns and distributions was due to climate change and would affect food security as a result.

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