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Chile: Open Gable system improves the productivity of table grapes
According to the Economic and Social Survey of the systems implemented in commercial grape orchards to improve competitiveness, a project from the INIA, Fedefruta and Uvanova, that receives funding from the Foundation for Agricultural Innovation (FIA), 63.6% of the producers of table grapes between Coquimbo and O'Higgins would change their Spanish grape arbors systems and would install trellis systems, like the Open Gable system, if it could help them increase their efficiency and lower labor costs, among other productive issues.
The Open Gable trellis system consists of independent plantation rows, which have some metallic or wooden crosspieces with different opening angles.
According to Carolina Cruz, an adviser on table grapes and president of Uvanova, the Open Gable system allows producers to have a high density of plants per hectare, orchards with a greater precocity, less specialized labor, decreasing accident rates, as well as the incidence of plant diseases, and improves the performance of the pruning and the arrangement of clusters tasks.
"Consultants believe that this is the way to go, if the goal is to cut costs and regain competitiveness," Cruz said. "However, there were no studies to help us understand the advantages and disadvantages of opting for this system," she added. Last Thursday, the main findings of this study were released at Rinconada's Enjoy Casino.
Open Gable system's impact
The advantages of the Open Gable systems were evaluated, from pruning to harvest, in the study commissioned from agronomist Felipe Bonelli. Regarding the first task, the companies surveyed said that the loaders were at a good height and the workers didn't need ladders to prune the vines, which made their work more efficient. "The workers use scissors instead of shears, which made the activity safer and easier. This, in turn, allows producers to use less skilled workers without compromising the product's quality," the report stated.
According to the surveyed companies, the work was done more easily and quickly during the harvest, without using ladders, which allows producers to achieve a higher performance and better fruit quality. 73% of the supervisors said the workers had preferred this system over the arbors, especially when conducting pruning, defoliation, unloading, and the arrangement of clusters. However, there are less clusters left undone in the Open Gable system because it has a better range. Furthermore, the same percentage of people indicated that the system seemed safer, because they could use lighter tools and didn't need ladders to reach the fruit. The workers also said there was an increased exposure to sunlight during the harvest periods.
Impact on fruit
Regarding disease, producers found less rot in the Open Gable system because this system provides more ventilation than other systems. "Last season was the best season to measure this impact because we had fungi problems in all areas due to the rains and the high humidity," said Cruz. She also stated that, according to the study, the handling of light was also easier in this system, as well as the coloring of the berries, although this could be a little more risky for the white ones.
Regarding the disadvantages of the system, such as the entanglement of clusters when they are distributed linearly in some python pruning, Carolina Cruz said: "All the disadvantages identified will help us improve this design, standardizing it and solving all the problems we discover." "Chile has been working and developing different variations of this system with different materials, distances, and crosspieces angles."
Impact on investment
According to Arturo Campos, from the INIA, the relevance of this study is that it is the first assessment of the benefits and difficulties that alternative systems have in comparison to the Spanish grape arbors, which will help establish standards in these systems.
Campos considered the investment costs of both systems and he observed that there was a high variability in the investment amounts needed for the Open Gable, which was greater under this system, as it requires a greater number of plants, crosspieces, and wire per hectare.
Regarding the worker's performance, the INIA stated that the Open Gable system used labor more efficiently, as it allowed the workers to perform most of the field work in less time, as they can have more plants per hectare. Additionally, producers need to pay for fewer work days in the Open Gable system than in the Spanish arbors," he said. However, "the harvest doesn't seem to be more efficient in the Open Gable system."
The important thing in this area is that the study detected a decrease in cash costs per hectare when compared to the Spanish grape arbor, mainly in terms of labor and agrochemicals (the two main items), even though costs increased in machinery, precisely because it allows an increased mechanization of the work.
The presentations and all the results are available at www.fedefruta.cl and www.uvanova.cl.
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