In the Coquimbo Region, a project is underway to study the impact of the use of site-variety specific shading nets on the water needs of table grapes. The project, promoted by the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), is being carried out in the Elqui Valley by the Institute for Agrarian Research (INIA Intihuasi), specifically in the towns of Vicuña, Diaguitas and Paihuano.
The initiative aims to validate the use of new shading nets in table grapes under the conditions of northern Chile, with monofilaments, structures and colors different from those commonly used by table grape producers in this territory.
“A team of highly trained professionals has been assigned to each of the processes. So far, we have been able to estimate the saving of water under the meshes at 25%. We hope that this saving will translate into better efficiency in the use of water resources for the different producers with whom we are working,” said INIA Intihuasi researcher and project executor Nicolás Verdugo.
Over the last 5 years, the Chilean table grape sector has been experiencing a crisis caused by a lack of competitiveness of traditional varieties in the international markets against new varieties. This has motivated widespread varietal replacement. In the north, this replacement has been accompanied by new production technologies, such as the use of rootstocks and wind protection structures; however, the producers use generic shading nets, available in the market and used for different fruit trees and geographical areas, without considering the territory's specific environmental conditions.
The use of these new meshes will reduce the crop's water needs without affecting the yield or quality of the table grapes, paving the way for the implantation of intensive and sustainable agriculture. "In addition to being used as a physical barrier against the wind, these tools are expected to contribute to reducing the crop's water requirements, which should translate into improvements in the productivity, the yield and the quality. This knowledge and management protocols will be transferred to producers, exporters, consultants and researchers linked to the table grape industry,” said the FIA representative in the Coquimbo region, Wanda García.
To date, trials have been carried out in orchards in the aforementioned locations, with varieties such as the Prime, Midnight beauty, Timco and two new varieties from a genetic improvement program. Small and medium table grape producers, as well as reputable mesh manufacturers at both national and international level are involved.