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Fruticultura: INIA Quilamapu Expirement Station

Today we ventured to INIA Quilamapu Expiremental Station to learn about the research on wheat and apples (Yay! Mazanas!) being conducted there.  Upon our arrival, our very knowledgable host, Dr. Pablo Grau , gave us a [somewhat lenghty] presentation on the importance of fruticultura in Chile.  His presentation was thorough and gave us an excellent overview of the agricultural markets in Chile and the significance of their export system here. For example, some interesting facts:

  • The fruit production area of Chile extends over 2800 Km from North to South and encompasses 300,000 ha of land.
  • The fruit industry employs around 500,000 people.
  • Chile is the leading fruit producer in the Southern Hemisphere with approximately 8,000 producers.
  • Fresh fruit is the third most important industrial sector of the Chilean economy.
  • The fruit of Chile reaches approximately 1700 consumers in over 100 different countries in all the continents of the world.
  • It would take Chile 15 years to consume internally what it exports in one year of fruit.

Dr. Grau, a Cornell Graduate, explained to us the strong presence of the global market with the example of the blueberry market. Chile is a very large blueberry producer, exporting 90% of their production to the US.  Their production window begins in November and ends in March, utilizing the months when blueberry production ceases in the US. In other words, the Chilean climate is opposite, or an exact mirror, of ours in Norther America, making them, in an economic sense, perfect global trading partners.  However, in recent years Peru has been planting blueberry plants as well and have been flooding the market with their very flexible production.  Flexible because their climate allows for blueberry production whenever they so please.  Production cycles in Peru are only determined by the cutting rythm implemented by the grower. In addition, labor is very inexpensive in Peru, giving them many advantages to producing a very economically competative fruit product.  Nevertheless, blueberry producers are very sucessfull in South America with net profits of 2.5$.

This past year we saw many issues relating climate change in North America.  Dr. Grau explained that this season has not been all too different for the Chileans this year.  Abnormal summer rains have caused blueberries to pop and temperatures have been rising over all at a rapid rate, causing water shortages. These water shortages, Dr. Grau fears, could put the apple indsutry out of business here in Chile in 5 or so years, as all apples require irrigation here.

Therefore, Dr. Grau demonstrated to us all the agricultural experiments he has been conducting to help improve this industry in these everchanging times.  Until 1990 there was no experimental fruit station in Chile because the government had no funds for this. Now they are sucessfully doing research on major issues surrounding apple production, such as Venturia (Apple Scab), and are working on releasing a new apple variety in 20 years from now.

After the presentaiton we were given a tour of the reasearch facility where we got a taste for Dr. Graus heartwarming personality (see the picture of him kising the Cornell cup) and where he showed us some of his different experiments and projects regarding fruit quality.  Overall, this stop stimulated abundant discussion amongst the group regarding Chile´s role in the global trade system. The discussions that blossomed from the above mentioned facts and information made this stop absolutely valuable and mind-expanding.


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