Without Insecticide Sprays, European Olive Oil Would Smell and Taste Really Bad

Decay and feeding damage from olive fly

Decay and feeding damage from olive fly

More than 95% of the world’s production of olive oil (about 870 million gallons) comes from the Mediterranean region. The olive fly is an ancient pest mentioned in Greek and Roman writings dating back to the 3rd Century B.C. In heavily infested orchards more than 90% of the olives may be attacked. The larvae consume pulp which results in a reduction of oil quantity by 20-25%; the quality of the oil is also lowered. Oil obtained from olives infested with the olive fruit fly has 50-60% higher acidity. Exit holes made by larvae allow for the development of bacteria and fungi. Acidity is increased by fermentation through the action of bacteria and fungi and oxygen exposure. The larval gut contents may have an effect on the flavor of the oil and lead to a so-called “wormy smell”. In the 1960s, the availability of inexpensive chemical insecticides made it possible to protect the olive crop efficiently from the olive fly. Several countries such as Spain and Greece have government-sponsored programs that provide area-wide spray programs.

“The olive fruit fly, is considered to be the key pest of the Mediterranean Basin olive orchards. Females lay their eggs in both green and ripening olive fruit, and larvae feed upon the pulp of the fruit. They finally pupate inside the olive or exit to pupate on the ground. This pest causes a reduction in yield owing to a premature fruit drop or a loss of weight of the fruit caused by feeding larvae. Furthermore, microorganism growth inside the fruit increases the acidity of olive oils, which decreases their quality and commercial value. In table olives, B. oleae’s damage totally reduces their commercial value. Control methods against this pest include bait sprays, cover sprays and mass trapping. Traditional insecticides, such as organophosphates, and other more recently developed compounds, such as spinosad, are commonly applied as bait sprays.” 

Authors: Bengochea, P., et al.
Affiliation: Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Spain.
Title: Insect growth regulators as potential insecticides to control olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae Rossi): insect toxicity bioassays and molecular docking approach.
Source: Pest Management Science. 2013. 69:27-34.

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They’re Only in it for the Money: Organic Farming in the EU

Organic Farmers in Greece

Organic Farmers in Greece

Organic farming regulations are implemented by EU Member States mainly through the provision of financial support to farmers. There has been an increase in the areas under organic management in most EU countries, which is probably related to the direct effect of financial support. Greece is an important country with respect to organically cultivated land and has one of the highest rates of increasing organic areas in the EU. However, Greek organic products are very difficult to find in the market, and sales are extremely low. In other words, only a small amount of organic products are labeled and sold as organic products. Since farmers were willing to switch from conventional to organic agriculture, with the procedure to obtain the organic label being quite simple for farmers to follow, why are so many farmers not enthusiastic about certifying and labeling their products as organic?

“In Greece, organic farming was majorly promoted through the provision of subsidies to farmers, i.e., since 2004. An average organic farmer in Greece has one of the highest per hectare support compared to other countries. However, subsidies are provided with no limitation regarding crop type, geographic region or other more specific characteristics. It is very likely that farmers are not selecting organic management for ideological reasons, but are driven by financial incentives to receive the available subsidies… In any case, when the organic agricultural sector operates in this way, it stops at the farm, resulting in it being short term and highly unsustainable, as it is completely dependent on direct and uninterrupted financing. 

Consequently, since organic farming is made profitable because of subsidies (sometimes double, as in the case of wheat), it is much easier for the farmers to sell organic products as conventional products in a market that they are already familiar with.

As the majority of EU Member States offer per area payments for the conversion and/or maintenance of organic land, the “Bio without Bio”, i.e., organic farming – without organic products case of Greece, is probably not an exception.”

Authors: Argyropoulos, C., et al.
Affiliation: DIO-Certification Body.
Title: Organic farming without organic products.
Source: Land Use Policy. 2013. 32:324-328.

In Greece, Spraying Mosquitos Makes Life Bearable

mosqueto

Mosquito Biting Human

Greece has a long history of mosquito-borne diseases (malaria, dengue fever) and there is scientific evidence that some inhabitants have contracted West Nile virus. Especially in Northern Greece where the majority of wetlands and rice fields are located, inhabitants and visitors suffer from an unbearable mosquito nuisance every year for more than 5 months (May – September) and counts of 150-200 mosquito bites per 15 minutes are not unusual. A large-scale mosquito insecticide spray program makes life bearable.

“Wide area mosquito control projects involve survey and applications in natural, agricultural, periurban and urban environment.

A total of about 8,000 sampling stations are established every summer period and checked weekly for larval activity. In addition more than 25,000 private properties (houses and tourist installations) are visited and checked for breeding sites.

The main spraying applications (larviciding) are conducted by four Hiller UE-12E helicopter, and an Ultra Light Motorized (ULM) aircraft. Minor applications are conducted by 15 conventional spraying units, mounted on 4×4 trucks and one low volume fan sprayer unit mounted on a Unimog 4×4 vehicle. For various spot treatments mainly in urban and periurban environment, knapsack sprayers and granule applicators were used.

In total a mean of 100,000 ha are sprayed with larvicides every year. About 80% of this surface is aerially treated. Spraying frequency of rice fields varies considerably from one to five times while this of the natural systems rarely exceeds two times per season.

The positive results of the project are clearly reflected in surveys in the form of questionnaires the company has conducted in 1999 and 2006 in a sample of 1000 inhabitants in 15 communities of the Thessaloniki plain: In 1999 100% of the people considered the mosquito problem unbearable before the beginning of the control project, while 68% considered it medium, small or non-existent after its implementation. In 2006 the results were 48% and 84% respectively.”

Authors: Iatrou, G. and S. Mourelatos.
Affiliation: Ecodevelopment S.A.
Title: Mosquito control in Greece.
Source: International Pest Control. 2007. May/June:66-69.