15 Jul

Greek island takes olive tree census

Scientists are trying to catalogue hundreds of olive trees, some more than 1,000 years old, on the Greek island of Crete in a bid to save them from abandonment amid falling olive prices, an agronomy institute said on Wednesday.

Olives have for centuries been a Cretan staple and a major source of income but falling prices threaten the trees’ as the crop is unprofitable.

Some of trees date back more than 1,000 years, as old as Greece’s famed archaeological treasures, scientists say. “We want to determine the age of these natural monuments and protect them,” Dimitris Lidakis, director of Crete’s School of Agronomy told AFP.

Hundreds of olive trees have already been cleared for construction, prompting the environmental initiative organised by some 30 associations and supported by the local technical institute.

Organiser Bella Lasithiotaki said there was one olive tree in the northern village of Vrysses in Rethymno prefecture that was more than 1,000 years old, with a trunk around 20 metres (66 feet) in circumference.

Another four trees of the same age have been located in the neighbouring prefecture of Iraklio, the semi-state Athens News Agency reported.

On a visit to Greece last year, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited a Crete archaeological cooperative where he helped workers picking olives.

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