Research Matters - Ornamental olive tree production

The horticultural industry is continually searching for novelties that could provide it with new marketing opportunities.

One such novelty might be the genetically dwarf olive tree because such plants apparently occur rarely in nature and yet could make attractive patio plants.

In the work reported here, cells from cotyledons of the olive cultivar 'Frangivento' were cultured in a sterile medium that was manipulated to encourage the production of embryos. These were allowed to become plantlets that were then transferred to pots and grown outdoors.

Eventually, four-year-old trees were planted in an orchard in Tuscany, Italy, where four dwarf plants were selected for further investigation together with four plants of 'Frangivento', their parent. Three years later, various features were measured on each of these eight trees.

The dwarf plants were evidently more compact, had smaller leaves and produced more side-shoots than their parent. In addition, the smaller, more rounded leaf canopies of the dwarf trees required no pruning and the plants set fewer fruits (desirable in an ornamental plant).

Clearly, it is feasible to produce new cultivars by somaclonal embryology. The olive produced in this way was genetically dwarf and so did not require either manipulation or chemical sprays to maintain its compact size. Consequently, it could have potential as a pot-grown patio plant.

Dr Ken Cockshull, Associate Fellow, Warwick Crop Centre, University of Warwick

Dwarf Olive Trees for Ornamental Use: A Morphological Evaluation by Leva and Petruccelli (2011). Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology 86 (3): 217-220.

The authors' abstract of their manuscript can be seen in full at www.jhortscib.com.


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