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Chilean growers learn to limit use of resources

Small growers in Chile often use more resources than necessary. This is not only damaging for the environment and public health, they also end up with a financial deficit. The expertise centre Wageningen UR Chile are therefore going to provide training to small farmers in how to farm and use fewer crop protection products. "We will let them see that it is in their own interest to use less," explains Marian Geluk, director of Wageningen UR Chile.

Effects of too much pesticides on vegetables
If the maximum residue levels (MRL's) on fruit and vegetables exceed the limit, then supermarkets and food processing companies will not use these products. In Chile many vegetables are sold on local markets where these checks are not performed. Therefore Chilean people who by these vegetables on the local market are exposed to high concentrations of residue. Chilean farmers also encounter unnecessary costs if they use too much product. Additionally regular over use of these products results in a burden to the environment and in surface water. The same water is used for irrigation. Reason enough for the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture to ask for an improvement in the approach to pest management.
Customers involved in agricultural training
Agricultural training is provided by Wageningen UR Chile and aims to emphasize to farmers the benefits of 'good agricultural practice.' "Therefore our program differs from any other agricultural training available in Chile," explains director Geluk. "To get the message across from the start we include supermarkets, suppliers of protective equipment and water companies."

Alumni provide part of the training
The largest part of the training is provided by six Chilean consultants, three of which were trained at Wageningen University. "The former students approached us during the alumni meeting in Santiago de Chile, which was organised in honour of the 95th anniversary of Wageningen University in May 2013," said Geluk. "They suggested that it would be beneficial for Chilean farmers to follow the Wageningen principles and to receive training. Together with researchers in Wageningen via Skype and email, we submitted a proposal to the Instituto de Desarrollo Agropecuario (INDAP), which is a part of the Ministry of Agriculture, and to our delight we won the tender."

Wageningen UR trains de trainers
"Most of the 500,000 Euro tender is spent in Chile," explains Geluk. "Only 40,000 Euro goes to Wageningen UR. From this money Wageningen UR trains up the consultants, guiding the approach and gives support in setting up the training program. A small portion also goes to organisation and administration. The rest is used to pay the consultants, pay for the halls, transport expenses, and so on. The goal is to give 400 growers a good foundation in 'good agricultural practices'. Geluk: "We train on a number of precursors, so that the knowledge is spread further."

Wageningen UR Chile
It is the first project of Wageningen UR Chile which directly focuses on small farmers. The Expertise Centre which was started in Santiago de Chile in 2012 was started under leadership from Wageningen UR, which normally focuses on technological investigation for the food processing industry. "But this is a country of primary production and this sector is enormous. While the food industry is still small, we are here to develop the food sector further, but it is also great fun and important to do agronomic work," added the director of Wageningen UR Chile.

Source: Wageningen UR

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