The regions of Arica and Parinacota, which supply 40% of the country's vegetables, currently face a complex scenario because of the transmission of some viruses that can reduce total production if the crop is at an early stage. To face this threat, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (PUC) and the University of Tarapacá, with the support of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), are working to identify the viral agents using molecular biology technologies and implementing sustainable management practices to reverse the situation that affects producers mainly in the Azapa Valley.
So far, they have already detected two very invasive viruses: the Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus and the Pepper Necrotic Spot Virus. Both diseases can affect 30% to 100% of a plant's yield if the plant is at an early stage of development. The earlier the infection, the more damaging its effect.
Specifically, the stages of the work consist of identifying the viral agents, defining the specific problem that is affecting horticultural production, and guiding and training horticulturalists in the region through technology transfer activities that include the development of experimental modules and demonstration plots with the implementation of sustainable management practices. All this is through the collaborative work between the relevant actors of the agricultural sector to reduce the impact of these diseases on crop yields and their commercial quality.
The project was created after researchers received samples of peppers and tomatoes with symptoms of virosis - which are transmitted through thrips or insects - from different points in the valleys of Azapa, Lluta, and Sector Pampa Concordia. Additionally, researchers analyzed fruit samples from the different markets of the Metropolitan region, such as free fairs and supermarkets during the months of June and July 2020 and 2021, and found that they were infected with this new virus.
Ana Cecilia Rojas, a member of the Ministry of Agriculture, said: “The ministry is in constant conversation with leaders and it's constantly analyzing the regional situation through field visits to anticipate situations that may be interfering with the good economic result of local production.”