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Day 4 – What a Day

By the time our group sat down to eat dinner at the end of our last day in Santiago, we had all walked over 10 miles throughout the day! Our time was well spent in the afternoon as we hiked through some of Santiago’s culturally significant landscapes. First we started our walking tour in Santiago’s City Center; an open paved area bordered by many significant buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, which had been rebuilt five times throughout Chile’s history! In the main plaza, numerous species of plants provide resting shade areas and a break in the city texture. Here we saw people relaxing with their families and lounging under the canopy of the taller trees. An interesting fact about Santiago is how the city started developing and was designed to be a noticeable city block planning.

City Center flora includes various species from flowers and shrubs to enormous trees!

City Center flora includes various species from flowers and shrubs to enormous trees!

Here is one of the illustrations of the block design of Santiago over the years.

Here is one of the illustrations of the block design of Santiago over the years.

Our next stop was Santa Lucia Hill, a 69 meter high rock hill jutting out from the center of Santiago. At the top, we took in the views of Santiago from the highest point in the city center. History of the Santa Lucia Hill crosses between the original inhabitants [Heulén] and conquerors around the 1500s as lookout points. In the late 1800s, Benjamin Vicuna Mackenna redesigned Santa Lucia Hill to include fountains and lookouts with exquisite flora. Our group loved exploring the vastness of the creativity present on Santa Lucia Hill.

Taken from one of the tiers at Santa Lucia Hill.

Taken from one of the tiers at Santa Lucia Hill.

We finished the day with a ride in a rail tram up to San Cristobal Hill, home to the 22-meter statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This statue was also blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1987 and on the same day he blessed the city of Santiago. We opted to walk down from San Cristobal Hill, a decrease in 300 meter elevation, which turned into an hour stroll on our way back to the hotel. Needless to say, we all happily took a seat when it came time for dinner.

The Blessed Virgin Mary at San Cristobal Hill.

The Blessed Virgin Mary at San Cristobal Hill.

Views of Santiago on our journey down from San Cristobal Hill.

Views of Santiago on our journey down from San Cristobal Hill.

Our group truly appreciated the help of many of the people who showed us around Santiago, especially Leynar! Day 5 we travel to Talca so stay tuned for more!

Preserving Diversity

As we move into an age where new plant breeding techniques are being developed, expanding from traditional cross breeding methods, we still need to make sure diversity is being retained. High diversity within cropping systems gives more of a safety net when farms are faced with insect pest, diseases, and adverse weather conditions. One way to combat these issues is with breeding techniques which incorporate resistant genes from existing varieties of selected plants.

Think back to the Irish Potato Famine between 1845 and 1852; massive starvation, disease and emigration occurred in Ireland because of a major staple crop failure. Potato blight caused by Phytophthora infestans infected most of the potatoes to damage yield and impacted the storage of the potatoes. Unfortunately, Ireland was only growing a single variety at the time; the Irish Lumper. The lack of species diversity exacerbated Ireland’s problems because no other potato could be grown, even with the chance of being resistant to potato blight. Luckily, today we have a better understanding of diseases and the importance of diversity.

Potatoes do not originate from Ireland, instead they were first cultivated by people in the Andean Mountains and even Chile! Species diversity is usually highest at centers of origins, which holds true for Chile as well. Natural breeding and our own forced hybridization can often have repercussions in genetic diversity. For example, species can become genetically extinct because of new hybrid generations diluting the original potato-genebank-potatoesgene pool. Chile, however, has a way to continuously preserve their native potato species.

As part of the Universidad Asutral de Chile, the Institute of Plant Production commissioned the UACh Potato Genebank. In this facility, they work to preserve the genetic diversity of potatoes and various subspecies, both wild and cultivated, but also work to develop new cultivars to keep with current trends in agriculture. To keep potato plants as living specimens, the Potato Genebank utilizes in-vitro as well as working collections planted and harvested yearly. Previous projects have identified virus, disease and nematode resistant varieties from native cultivars. What a great way to incorporate preservation of ancestral varieties with plant breeding of new varieties! With this, we can definitely avoid another famine situation.

This January, we have the potential to visit the UACh Potato Genebank and hope to see some of their preservation methods and breeding programs.

potato-genebank-plots

potato-genebank

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images from www.potatogenebank.cl visit for more information about the Potato Genebank of Chile!

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