Water-smart irrigation sees surge of interest in Chile and Peru
2020 has been a challenging year for many, but fruit production and exports have remained generally steady. However, with increasing drought and water pressures, producers in Chile and Peru have been increasingly adopting water-smart technologies to increase irrigation efficiency, solve salinity issues, and alleviate climate adaptation in the coming years.
Leading the way is AQUA4D technology, spearheaded in Chile and Peru by IST Group. This clean technology with roots in the Swiss alps is proving its ability to restore soils and transform poor-quality irrigation water. The result? Healthier soils, resource efficiency, and greater productivity.
“Our technology reduces the size of water molecule clusters,” says AQUA4D’s Javier Meyer, “and in doing so improves the dissolution and hydration of any mineral or organic matter in the water”. This leads to better homogenization and better distribution of the minerals in the water, and soils stay moist for longer. This has crucial knock-on: less frequent irrigation, fertilizer savings, and efficient leaching of salts and harmful minerals.
This video explains this process at work:
“We enable a reduction of water consumption for farmers of 30 percent on average,” says Meyer. “In addition to this benefit, we help farmers solve salinity issues, prevent organic and mineral clogging, enhance root development, and increase nutrient uptake by plants. All this leads to important improvements in the quality of crops.”
Citrus: salinity and chlorine management
A 12-month study in 2019-20 illustrated the tangible impacts of AQUA4D treatment at a citrus grower in Coquimbo. Previously plagued with salt and chlorine accumulation in the soil, irrigation with AQUA4D was proven to reduce soil EC by 53.7% and chlorine by 48.1% compared with the control. Concurrent drone analysis showed significantly higher NDRE levels in the AQUA4D trees in the analyzed period.
The graphs below show the soil EC with AQUA4D (on the left) and without (on the right), over a year.
Blueberries: less water, higher Brix
In a 2020 field study lasting 8 months, it was found that there are huge potentials for water-smart treatment of blueberry crops. In meridian varieties, there was a Brix increase of 10.3% compared to the control – a significant factor for producers looking to increase sweetness of taste. Along with this was an average comparative decrease of 27.4% in water use between October and April. Even more significant from the grower’s perspective was the increase in yields - of 11.1% for eureka varieties and 15.6% for meridian varieties.
With the blueberry industry in Chile and Peru continuing to boom, AQUA4D has seen growing interest in the capacity of its technology to replicate these results across the region.
Avocados: water efficiency and reduced chlorine
In September 2020 a major collaborative study kicked off between AQUA4D, Paltas de Chile AG (Comité de Paltas de Chile), and INACAP University of Technology. “The potential for avocados is huge,” says agronomist Enrique Rebaza. “Based on previous studies, we can bring about water efficiency of up to 25% while also managing chlorine and stopping it from accumulating in the soil and harming the plant.”
Initial results of the wide-ranging study in Chile are due in late 2020, but previous cases anticipate solving chlorine and salinity issues can also increase weight and length of fruits by 16% and 9% respectively.
IST’s Felipe Villarino says that the technology would greatly benefit growers in both Chile and Peru, as both countries face serious salinity problems. This causes them to irrigate far more than they need to, while also impacting on crop yields.
“This is where we and AQUA4D can help. We can reduce the salinity in their fields without flooding them,” he said.
Villarino explained that great progress has been made this year on projects both in Chile and Peru amid a strong customer demand. An increasing number of growers are understanding the need to move quickly and responsibly in the efficient use of water and salt management.
“We have very ambitious expansion plans in both countries. We know that there are no other real solutions to help growers overcome their problems of water scarcity and salinity in a sustainable way and with an attractive Return on Investment,” he said.
He added that the incorporation of new technologies in the Chilean and Peruvian agricultural industries is fundamental to be successful in the future.
“Nowadays, the demands of the market in terms of quality and sustainable production mean that growers must adopt Agriculture 4.0, and the integration of technology is key to continuing to be competitive,” he said.
Potential for nuts and berries
“Almonds and pistachios are needy crops whose moisture level needs to be maintained,” says AQUA4D California’s Jeff Nunes. “AQUA4D is able to keep their rhizosphere moist, which is highly advantageous. AQUA4D helps keep the water in the rhizosphere instead of it draining through, especially in clay and loamy soils.”
The main impact of AQUA4D is to restore degraded soils while making significant water savings: the technology enables an average reduction of water consumption for farmers of 30 percent on average. In addition to this benefit, AQUA4D helps solve salinity issues, prevent organic and mineral clogging, enhance root development, and increase nutrient uptake by plants. All this leads to important improvements in the quality of crops.
There’s a huge call for technologies which can help increase yields without the use of chemicals and give a fast Return on Investment. AQUA4D helps farmers reduce their environmental impact by using less water, energy and chemicals, while improving their yields. This is a change of paradigm - a new regenerative and sustainable agriculture.
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