LSU AgCenter researchers are taking a long look at the feasibility of growing olives in Louisiana, where mild winters are a major key to commercial production.

LSU and a few other southern colleges are working with olive trees, which need cold temperatures above freezing in order to flower in the spring.

The initial funding for the long-term study will come from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s Specialty Crop Competitiveness Block Grant Program.

The research will be done at the AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station and will involve 15 olive varieties.

The United States is the world’s largest consumer of olive oil, 99 percent of which is imported from Italy, Greece and Spain, according to the AgCenter. Locally grown olives could fill a niche for a gourmet product at local farmers markets.