Olive growing in Spain has outstanding economic relevance, as shown by wide land extension, its character of largely dominant crop in some geographical areas, the long historical tradition of its cultivation, the role of Spain as the main world producer of virgin olive oil, and the major importance of olive oil in traditional diet and gastronomy. Yet, very little information is available on cell wall metabolism or cuticle composition of the intact fruit during ripening or during the postharvest period previous to olive processing or to oil extraction. Beyond its scientific interest, this knowledge has also practical implications for the olive-growing industry, since cuticle and cell wall properties may impact crop production by affecting fruit attributes (susceptibility to infestations, rots and mechanical damage, water loss) as well as the properties and shelf life of the oil produced.
The overall purpose of the Project is to characterize cuticle and cell wall composition in fruit of a range of economically important olive cultivars grown in Catalonia and Spain. Different internal and environmental factors will be evaluated, including genotype, maturity stage, growing area, water availability or season-to-season variation.
With this objective, the project will aim at:
(i) characterising compositional changes in fruit cuticle and cell walls during on-tree ripening,
(ii) assessing inter-cultivar differences in the above-mentioned biochemical parameters,
(iii) evaluating the influence therein of environmental factors, and
(iv) establishing possible relationships between the considered biochemical parameters and important fruit quality attributes, such as proneness to dehydration, rots, infestations, and mechanical damage.