Chile embarks on water stress monitoring program
A new government-backed Chilean initiative aims to improve fruit export quality by optimizing water and energy use through developing monitoring technology.
The initiative will be co-financed by the Agricultural Innovation Foundation (FIA) and implemented by companies DreamLine and Wiseconn, applying sensors that continually measure levels of water stress in plants.
With 108 districts in a state of water deficit, the sensor project could be a better tool for growers than existing water stress detection methods, which are usually indirect and involve measuring water content in plants and the hydric potential of soil.
"Techniques for measuring water potential in different plant organs have only been developed for some species, but all these techniques are performed sporadically and do not take into account the hydric status of the plant in real time, so their application is limited," says program coordinator Cristóbal Rivas.
'Made in Chile' innovation
The pilot project is in the VII (Maule) region with the first prototype expected to be fully functional by October. The ultimate aim is to establish a version of these sensors that could be applied on a wider commercial scale, both in Chile and abroad.
The technology will be applied through a telemetry system, with specialized software that can be viewed remotely so that farmers can make optimal irrigation decisions.
"The information obtained will enable the early detection of water stress, and the programming or automization of modern irrigation systems," explains FIA innovation executive Maurice Streit.
"This will improve the use of water and energy and quality of fruit destined for export markets."
"We want to position this technology in the domestic and international market for potential users, mainly farmers who use these types of agronomic variables for making decisions about water management," adds Rivas.