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Impact of La Niña on Chilean agriculture: challenges and expectations

Chilean climate experts expect the La Niña phenomenon, which could have significant consequences for the country's agricultural sector, to start in July. According to Patricio González, from the Research and Agroclimatology Center of the University of Talca (CITRA), and Fernando Santibáñez, from San Sebastian University, this climatic phenomenon, exacerbated by climate change, could last for three years, bringing with it spring frosts and a lack of rainfall.

La Niña, characterized by colder temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, tends to divert the frontal systems to the south of Chile reducing rainfall in the central area and increasing the risk of late frosts that affect crops such as avocados, citrus fruits, pits, grapes, cherry, and kiwis. The scarcity of rainfall could also result in less water reserves for summer, aggravating water stress in the basins and limiting the water available for irrigation.

The effects of La Niña are not only limited to frost and reduced rainfall but can also include an increase in cold hours that can benefit the flowering of certain fruit trees. However, the serious lack of water will affect crops that require high water demand such as wheat, rice, corn, blueberries, table grapes, and kiwis. Chilean agriculture, which uses 80% of the country's water, faces a major challenge in water resource management.

The situation is particularly critical in regions such as Coquimbo, Valparaíso, and Santiago, as it could intensify the desertification process there. La Niña is expected to exacerbate drought in these areas because of the decrease in rainfall. In contrast, regions further south such as La Araucanía could experience less severe water deficits.

Against this backdrop, farmers are encouraged to adopt water conservation strategies, improve irrigation efficiency, and consider building small reservoirs to capture winter rainfall. In addition, experts suggest delaying the planting of summer crops to minimize the risk of exposure to late frosts.

The El Niño phenomenon, which precedes La Niña, left a mixed balance for Chile, partially alleviating the drought of the last decade but affecting fruit production due to a cooler spring. Experts emphasize that despite the present challenges, farmers must prepare to adapt to these extreme climate cycles, which have become more frequent and severe due to climate change.


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