Unusual snow hits northern Chilean grape province

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Unusual snow hits northern Chilean grape province

The Chilean grape province of Copiapó was hit with unusual snow on Jul. 30 and Aug. 1, which the industry estimates has caused around US$40 million in damages.

Industry body Fedefruta says the snow has affected around 1,200 hectares of land and the loss of 1.5 million grape cartons.

"This harvest was scheduled for October and November and is the first part of the export season, which is why we are very concerned about this situation and we will keep you informed in the coming days with respect to the impacts these climatic phenomena have caused," says Fedefruta president Antonio Walker.

See more photos here.

iQonsulting executive director Isabel Quiroz told www.freshfruitportal.com damages were registered between the localities of Los Loros and Iglesia Colorada, with a high likelihood that production would be very scarce in the area.

"As if that were not enough, the snow particularly affected covered vines, generating a weight the structures couldn't bear, in addition to damage from the cold in the buds of open vines," she says.

Her comments are echoed by Viticultura & Fruticultura Asociados agronomist Dragomir Ljubetic, who says the weight of snow on support structures has caused serious damages and will likely lead to production falls and delays.

"In this case the main damage was over Raschel netting which is used for wind protection. The snow accumulated and the structure of the mesh was attached to the grapevine structure, and with the weight it fell, dragging the whole grapevine, and this caused large damages for some producers," he says.

"Depending on the number of (snow) burnt plants that you have in the orchard, it could take between two and three years to recover the level of production as it was."

Ljubetic says not only were there snows from 7am to 7pm in the area, but that was followed by temperatures below 0ºC (32ºF) afterwards, with temperatures between -7ºC (19.4ºF) and -8ºC (17.6ºF) in the Iglesia Colorada Manflas sector.

The agronomist emphasizes the province itself has three grape-producing zones of which only the one closest to the Andes mountains was severly affected. The province itself is in the northern III (Atacama) region

He says almost all the perlette grapes in the affected zone have been lost, while a significant portion of Superior and Thompson variety grapes have suffered snow burn.

Growers who applied Dormex (Cyanamide) to encourage earlier growth have suffered from the event, but in some cases there were neighboring farms that had not used the chemical, didn't have shoots yet and didn't have as many problems.

Ljubetic said the damage was 'quite severe' in the Pulido and Manflas valleys which have early-budding vines, but in assessing the damage it is important to understand the levels of buds.

"There are three buds together - the primary, the secondary and the third. If the first bud sprouts then sprouting is inhibited for the other buds, which sleep during the whole year and do not sprout," he says.

"When the primary bud is damaged, normally the second or third bud sprouts. So, today we are waiting to see what sprouts, to truly see the damage. Today there are varieties like Red Globe and Flame which have bunches of very good quality from the secondary bud.

"Others like Superior and Thompson, for which the second bud usually doesn't carry fruit, you'll have to see whether you can cover the cost or determine whether you will leave them as raisins."

He sums up the situation as a 'fairly big disaster' and the true damage results will probably be known next week.

"Typically these weather events are more local. I've talked to producers who have never seen anything like it."

Photos: Agricola Manflas


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