Chile: New initiative seeks to expand avocado production locations -

Chile: New initiative seeks to expand avocado production locations

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Chile: New initiative seeks to expand avocado production locations

In an effort to expand the industry to new areas and boost volumes, Chilean researchers are investigating new methods of avocado production involving growing the fruit under plastic covers.

The Institute for Agricultural Research (INA) began the project in July last year in the Valparaiso region's Petorca Valley, an increasingly arid area with stony soil that presents challenges to avocado production.

The project is funded by the Foundation for Agricultural Innovation (FIA), major exporter Cabilfrut and the Ministry of Agriculture, with an investment of around US$60,000 annually for three years.

"This is an investigation, so it might have positive or negative results," project co-director Raúl Ferreyra told Fresh Fruit Portal.

He explained there was a need in the industry to find new areas for avocado orchards due to high levels of international demand.

"Production is increasing but the prices aren't declining, so there is space for more plantings, but in Chile it is difficult to find new areas with climatological conditions that allow for avocados to be produced," he explained.

The researchers are also hoping the use of plastic covering will reduce the water needs of the crop - previous experiments have indicated the technology could reduce table grapes' water requirements by 30-40%.

"Another element we are playing around with is the microclimate, we are making more similar to a subtropical winter," he said.

One issue surrounding the use of plastic covers, however, is the potential effect on pollination.

"Avocado trees require pollination, and so far we have seen that it's difficult for the bees to pollinate inside," he said, but added that other options were available, like releasing bees inside and uncovering the trees during the crucial period.

In addition, he explained while researchers thought the temperature increase generated by the covers could be problematic, the rises were not too significant.


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