Chilean growers gear up for El Niño
After a bout of La Niña and three years of drought, Chilean agriculture is anxiously awaiting a spell of El Niño to arrive. The industry hopes it could bring beneficial rains with it to help refill reservoirs, groundwater and reduce the country’s water deficit. However, there could potentially be disease damages if rains are intense, while more extreme temperatures in the Atacama desert could have impacts too.
Dr. Rodrigo Cazanga from Chile’s Natural Resources Information Center (CIREN), says El Niño may just be transient and not have a great impact on the nation’s water problems, but there could be other benefits.
“It is estimated that from Atacama to Maule the rain conditions will increase compared to last winter, but they could have levels considered normal for the time of year, or in other words it won’t rain more than a normal year,” he says.
The phenomenon is due to arrive in Chile in mid-August and carry on through to December. Cazanga says it will lead to more extreme maximum and minimum temperatures in the Atacama region, while there shouldn’t be significant variations in the south-central zone.
From the Bio Bio region to the south, it is expected temperatures will be lower than normal.
Cazanga says the arrival of El Niño will be positive for the fruit sector but it does carry risks if the phenomenon comes with intensity in the spring.
“If the rains are very heavy, diseases that affect crops and flowering could spread and develop, as temperatures will be higher than in previous periods with more moisture.
He cites some potential threats as venturia disease for pome fruit and botrytis for grapes.
“Growers need to be prepared to control these diseases, which could be favored by these conditions of humidity and temperature.”
According to the Meteorological Office of Chile, the accumulated rainfall for the quarter of July, August and September will be around normal historic levels.
The regions of Bio Bio and Los Lagos are set for higher rainfall, while the office does not rule out intense rain events throughout the country.