Tuscany’s famed wine and olive oil industry suffers from heatwave and drought

Farmers in Tuscany, the heart of Italy’s valuable wine and olive oil industries, are struggling to salvage as much of this year’s harvest as possible from the ravages of drought and heatwave.

The lack of rainfall since spring has affected even crops that traditionally thrive in hot and dry conditions.

In San Casciano in the Val di Pesa near Florence, olive trees line the picture-book slopes, but the soil, parched by the scorching sun, does not bear enough fruit.

“Climate issues have had a crucial impact,” said olive grower Filippo Legnaioli.


Paolo Cianferoni stands in his winery in Radda in Chianti, Italy. Photo: Reuters/Jennifer Lorenzini

“We have had a very dry spring from March to date, with virtually no rainfall, and this happened at a crucial time during the transition from flowering to fruiting,” added Legnaioli, president of the local cooperative “Frantoio Grevepese”.

Without water, many flowers fall to the ground before they can bear fruit. And with few olives on the branches, even the sparse harvest becomes an economic problem.

According to Legnaioli, this year’s oil production could be reduced by 50-60 percent.

Other olive growers have decided to change their farming methods, opting for an additional irrigation system that can offset the effects of drought and scorching heat.

“This year we are using, shall we say, ‘rescue’ irrigation to protect the olive production on the crops, while unfortunately for traditional olive trees, high temperatures and drought are leading to the loss of many olives,” explained farmer Luigi Calonaci.


Sergio Zingarelli, Vice President of the Chianti Classico Association, shows grapes on the vine that are ripe before their time. Photo: Reuters/Jennifer Lorenzini

The system works through a black tube installed under the trees, from which small amounts of water squirt.

The Calonaci farm has also opted for white nets to protect the plants from olive fruit flies, whose larvae feed on the fruit of the trees, a problem not directly related to the drought but which can cause major yield losses.

Not only heat and lack of rain, but also climate change affects the times and the properties of the wine.

In Castellina in Chianti, as in the rest of the country, September is usually the month of the grape harvest.

But with extreme and persistently high temperatures, the grapes ripen earlier than expected.

“We have smaller bunches and we expect the number of bunches to be below the average of recent years, probably at last year’s level,” Chianti Classico consortium vice-president Sergio Zingarelli told Reuters.

© Reuters Tuscany’s famed wine and olive oil industry suffers from heatwave and drought

Fry Electronics Team

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