Cranberries: Project aims to promote the use of water and energy in crops

Researchers from the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of the University of Chile have been working since last year on a project that they have called "Transfer, innovation and optimization of blueberry irrigation", which has been developed since then in the O'Higgins Region. this week the newspaper El Rancagüino.

According to those involved in the work, the main intention of this is to improve the competitiveness of the sector, and explained that the study is financed by the Regional Government with the support of the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness.

The progress of the research was presented last week in the middle of an event called "Field Day", in which students from the El Carmen Agricultural College of San Fernando had the opportunity to hear what the project is about and how it will be put into practice. march in the provinces of Colchagua and Cardenal Caro.

"We have determined that savings have been generated in irrigation flows of an 25% and energy associated with that flow. Interesting results were also obtained in the experiments to improve the physical fertility of the soil, which we hope will begin to express in the plants this season, "said José Ignacio Covarrubias, agronomist and chief coordinator of the initiative.

Claudio Asenjo, head of production at the educational institution, recounted how the experience with scientists has been. "Here we have a module where amendment applications are being evaluated since last year, so we are supporting them so that we can have good results," says Asenjo.

The representative of the agricultural high school adds that "the educational model that we have in the school considers that young people participate in the productive process. That is, learning by doing, they are always participating in everything we do in the field and for us it is very important to be linked with companies and universities because we believe it is the way to achieve the learning in our students. "

The justification

Changes in the climate have been particularly drastic in Chile, where there has been an increase in droughts and a rebound in frost during the last decade. In this sense, the availability of water for irrigation is increasingly scarce, which compromises the agricultural industry in the country.

This situation has ignited the alarms of the scientific community, which, in turn, has generated the urgency of creating alternatives for new technologies to manage water in a better way in areas that have a slightly more critical situation.

Other problems, including rainfall in the midst of harvest, frost, port strikes, and the appearance of pests, may not have such an immediate solution, but also affect the quality and quantity of good crops in Chilean soil.

But in spite of how bleak the panorama sounds, Chile remains the main exporter of blueberries in the southern hemisphere, and the second in the world. According to the data handled by the Office of Agricultural Studies and Policies (Odepa) of the Ministry of Agriculture (Minagri) in the Sixth Region, there were 972 hectares planted with this fruit until the year 2015.

For these reasons, the project led by the University of Chile takes on a real meaning, since the fact of optimizing the quality and condition of blueberries will allow small and medium producers in this sector to obtain better economic income.

To achieve this objective, the project considered the installation of capacitance probes with telemetry to evaluate and study irrigation. These modern sensors measure the water content in real time and allow the farmer to know from their homes when and how much to irrigate. The plan also has the support of a group of professionals who are training producers for the efficient use of this tool.

Pablo Navarro, representative of a berry cooperative in the commune of Chimbarongo, is one of the benefited producers. "I have blueberry and raspberry plantations in the sector of San Juan de la Sierra.

This year we implemented telemetry to see the irrigation system and be able to make it more efficient, which also reduces the final cost of the product. In general, all producers are having very good results, "he says.

This project lasts two and a half years and benefits 36 producers in the region. During 2017 and 2018, the experimentation process was already carried out and researchers are currently preparing to start a next season that will conclude in the middle of 2019.

The Rancagüino October 2018.

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