THE BENEFITS OF THE MAULE REGION FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION
A privileged location and characteristics are the factors that explain why the Maule Region is one of the main points of reference of the country in terms of agricultural production.
January 27, 2017
"The edaphoclimatic conditions (i.e., concerning the soil and climate) allow the development of different species, vegetables, fruit trees, vines, cereals, industrial crops, seeds, etc.," explained the professional of the Regional Deputy Secretary (Seremi) of Agriculture, Alejandra Gutierrez.
In this regard, the academics from the Department of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Talca, Jorge Retamales, added that "it is a conjunction of natural characteristics that are given by the climate and soil, and human intervention, which has to do with irrigation, and the use of elements - such as, for example, growth regulators - that allow to reduce the stress of plants so that they can devote themselves to produce fruit."
According to figures provided by the Seremi, in terms of production, the region has currently 305 thousand irrigated hectares, being the one with the highest irrigated area in the country.
"In the region, there is a diversity of crops that include fruit trees, vines, vegetables and orchards, in addition to annual and industrial crops," as noted in a report issued by the authority.
Among the many varieties grown in Maulean lands, there are some that stand out representing a significant percentage, like red apples with the 84% of the national surface; kiwis, 52%; cherry trees, just at 45%, while the vineyards represent 40% of the total in the country.
"In addition, 50% of exports of frozen raspberries came from the Maule Region, as an example of its vocation in fruit and wine, geared primarily for export," said the Authority.
He added that "another interesting feature is the 84% concentration of the rice area produced in Chile, 28% of corn and 15% of wheat".
"This allows to indicate that one cannot speak of a single agriculture in the Maule Region, but that of a several agricultures and that, in general, the sector is used to adapt to the requirements and conditions imposed by the external markets," stressed the Seremi.
That this agricultural potential reached the place in which it is today, would not have been possible without the support of a variety of actors, including the University of Talca, which has developed lines of research aimed at improving the quality of the products.
"Part of our potential has to be given by the kilogram of exportable fruit per hectare and that is affected, both by the performance as well as by the exportable percentage and the availability of technology to be able to do things well, and there is the work not only from institutions such as the UTALCA, but also of counseling given by others such as INIA, to increase productivity and that is permanent in time," explained Retamales.
Example of success
In the Maule Region, one of the first –since almost 22 years- in taking up the challenge to generate and transfer knowledge to improve the quality of the Maulean products was the Pomes Center of the University of Talca.
"We are an international reference in research in pome fruits (apples and pears). More than two thousand people from 40 countries have come to visit us, mainly producers, researchers and consultants," said the director of the entity, José Antonio Yuri.
What do they seek, or rather, what do they find here? They find knowledge that allows them to improve the attributes of these fruits and, through it, to improve their marketing, which translates into better prices.
How do they do it? While Yuri pointed out that it is not easy to quantify the impact of the work developed by the Center, he did highlight some of the most significant ones.
"The identification of the temperature, beyond the UV radiation, as the main cause of the damage by sun in the fruit, which just in apples is more than US$ 100 million of losses each year, is what determines the control method," he said.
He added that also identified were "nutritional standards for the production of quality fruit, which ensures a long storage in cold; the impact points in fruit packing lines, which meant saving every year tens of millions of USD in export quality fruit, which would otherwise have been dismissed due to bruises".
He also mentioned the establishment of a harvest and quality index of new cultivars of apple trees introduced in Chile; the identification of climatic factors affecting the quality and condition of the fruit; testing and introduction of new molecules that benefit the fruit (growth regulators, nutrients and antioxidants), as well as the completion of more than 150 courses, seminars and technical meetings intended to transfer knowledge.
Thinking about the future, and although progress have been considerable, Professor Yuri pointed out that the challenges of the Maule Region in fruit production are always changing.
"The introduction of new varieties of pomes has gone beyond what was expected, forcing us to study their cultivation requirements. Cherries arrived in our Region, changing the composition of the dominant species, with high demand in technology and labor. At the Center, we are preparing to contribute knowledge in this crop," he said.
For her part, the professional from the Seremi of Agriculture, Alejandra Gutierrez, said that the government is also generating tools aimed at taking a new leap in the production field.
"The Government Department of Agriculture, through its various services to the agro and also through Corfo, ProChile and FIA, possesses a series of support instruments to raise the competitiveness of the agricultural sector that involves increasing yields, quality, safety, associativity, search for new production technologies and new products with greater added value," she said.
In this sense, Gutiérrez said that one line of work, to which a special attention is being given, is the development of healthy foods.
"With the understanding that the current market trends include safe food, the Seremi of Agriculture coordinates a food safety commission to promote initiatives that go in that direction, and the instruments of promotion are available in order to apply the changes that are required," she said.
She added that, in addition, the authority also coordinates a public-private agro-ecological/organic working table with the purpose of agreeing on actions to encourage and support any activity that allows the development of this line of production.
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