Growing Olive
Crop Nutrition Advice

Everything you need to know about olive fertilization, best practice, suitable products, field trials and more.

Advice for growing olives (Olea europaea)

  • Olives are widespread around the Mediterranean basin, such as the west part of the Iberian Peninsula. In many cases found on calcareous soils with pH up to 8.5, but also in acidic soils of pH around 5-6.

  • Olive is a permanent tree crop that starts with the transplanting of a young plant in the field. A good establishment of the young plant is key for the successful growth of a healthy, productive tree.

  • There is a high diversity of olive production systems, from traditional systems under rainfed or deficit irrigation, and intensive olive production under full irrigation. These factors determine the requirements and possibilities for the fertilization management.

  • Usually there is some sort of irrigation which allows part of the nutrients to be supplied through fertigation. In any case, solid base fertilization is part of the fertilization management in any system, with the addition of at least one third, and up to the total supply of nutrients.

  • Nutrient supply needs to be well balanced to improve yield and oil quality, also to avoid harmful effects of its excess, while minimizing environmental impact.

  • Foliar nutrition is very important and widespread. Foliar applications are frequent (normally 3 applications), during specific periods of the growing season, to fulfill nutrient needs at critical growth periods.

  • The options for fertilization in organic farming systems are limited. The use of adequate cover crops and soil tillage needs to be taken into account, as well as increased focused on winter solid-based fertilization, as the possibilities for fertigation are reduced.

  • Management of olives for fruit consumption, as an aperitive, may need special attention, and specific management options may be more suitable.

Plantation of olive trees in Baeza, around 40 years old

Fruit at maturity, Koreniky variety

Fruit at maturity (variety, Koreniky) late autumn in Megiddo, Israel

Traditional olive plantation, Picual variety

Nutrient requirements

Estimated nutrient uptake (kg/t):


Source: Different author

Dynamic of nutrient uptake over a crop season in olive plantations

Nutrient uptake occurs mainly during spring and summer, as the tree sprouts and the olives set up and grow. Nitrogen uptake rate is higher in spring/early summer, during the vegetative growth, while potassium uptake rate is slightly behind this time.

Foliar spraying can complement the root uptake of nutrients, at specific times. For this reason, foliar spraying should be considered.

Role of nutrients

Key parameterNP2O5K2OMgOSO3CaO
Fruit set (reduced dropping)+/-++++++
Drought tolerance+/-+++++++
Oil content+/-++++++
Oil quality+/-++++++

+ = improving; – = decreasing; +/- = different results, depending on the rate of nutrient applied

Source: Different sources and references in literature

Nutrient deficiencies

Foliar analyses are a useful tool to assess the nutritional status of the plant. Leaf sampling and analyses should be done during mid-summer, once the olives are established, and nutrient demand is high. Values of reference can be found in our literature, and we recommend you consult with your crop advisor.

Soil analyses are also needed to understand the growing conditions and the factors affecting the nutrient status of the plant. This way, you will be able to select the most suitable strategy for your fertilisation and plant nutrition management.


Potassium deficiency in dry and calcareous soils is the main disorder, due to its interaction with water shortage and calcium respectively.


Calcium deficiency is also expected in acidic soils.


Iron deficiencies are frequent in calcareous soils with high pH. Iron deficiencies can be efficiently managed with the application of iron chelates in fertigation.


Boron deficiencies leads to defoliation. Boron applications are usually done with foliar sprayings. Attention: over application of boron may lead to toxicity, and reduced flowering, so follow the technical advice of your local supplier.


Potassium deficiency symptoms in olive trees appear on the tips of young leaves, as dry tips.

The use of controlled-release fertilisers (within the Agroblen product range), is highly recommended, applied the whole crop when transplanting. This will allow an early start to production.

2 year-old intensive plantation in Carmona, South Spain, with recently-sown cover in between tree lines

Polysulphate winter appllication in organic olive plantation (variety, Arbequina) in Madrigalejo, Spain

Fruit at maturity (variety, Koreniky), late autumn in Megiddo, Israel

Traditional olive plantation (variety, Picual) in Baeza (Jaén), South Spain

Related Trials

Norway spruce with Agroblen
Borsaskögle, Sweden, 2023


Plant height
Spring Onion with Agrocote Max
Worcestershire, UK, 2022


Yield increase


Here are some frequently asked questions we received from farmers regarding Growing Olives

  • The fertilization plan needs to account for the availability of nutrients in the soil, and the nutrient uptake (export) with the production of olives. Productivity level of olives ranges from 7000 to 30000 kg of olives per hectare, and hence the extraction of nutrients. Reference extraction values are indicated in the relevant table in this page. Foliar analyses gibe an indication of the plant nutritional status, and diagnose defficiencies, relative to the reference values. For meaningful determination and comparisson, leaf samples must be taken during fruit growth in summer (end of July, beginning of August in the northern hemisphere).

  • Foliar application aim to fulfill plant nutritional needs in specific moments. Usually 3 foliar applications are completed over each crop cycle. Taking into account the dynamics of nutrient uptake, first and second applications should be ideally done with Agroleaf Power High N and the last application, Agroleaf Power High K.

  • A healthy plant is the foundations of a productive tree. The focus is on oil content, and quality parameters such as oil acidity and fatty acid composition. A balanced plant nutrition, including winter base application and foliar application, are very important. If irrigation is available, fertigation can allow for timely supply of nutrients with the soil solutoin, across the summer growing period.

  • Firstly, we need to follow the guidelines of the local organization, to check if inputs are allowed under the regional or national regulation. Several crude salts like sulphate of potash or polyhalite are accepted. Polysulphate is certified for organic farming under most of the regulatory bodies and organic farming frameworks. Organic ammendments, where available, are usefull input to improve soil organic matter and soil structure. On the other hand, the cover crop, both in organic and conventional systems, is a part of the system that can also improve soil organic matter and soil health.

  • Potassium fertilization, in both soil and foliar fertilization, are important for the plant to have the capacity to regulate osmotic preassure of the guarding cells of the estomata. Hence, nutrient management is important to improve the crop resistance to drought conditions. Other mangement strategies related to transpiration, such as pruning (to keep the tree size at adequate levels), soil cover and mulching, soil tillage, to control water evaporation from the soil.

Do you have more questions?