New irrigation technologies for blueberries allowed significant water savings

The initiative was developed for three years in the area and was financed through the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness (FIC) of the Regional Government of O'Higgins and its Regional Council, framed in the Regional Innovation Strategy. “The blueberries from the O'Higgins Region are fruit in good condition, that is, with good quality characteristics, firmness, and are healthier in terms of plant diseases, therefore it requires very little phytosanitary application. I would dare to say that it is much healthier for the final consumer ”. (José Ignacio Covarrubias, Dr. Ing. Agr. University of Chile and director of the project)

Ximena Mella Urra

Photos: Marco Lara

Every year the availability of irrigation water is lower for the agricultural sector of the country due to the drought situation that affects us. According to experts, it is always feasible to be able to save on these production processes as is the case of technified irrigation, as long as its application is the right way. And that depends for example the life of blueberries whose production is almost 100% exported.

That is why the University of Chile began three years ago an arduous work in the O'Higgins Region with the project funded by the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness (FIC) of the Regional Government of O'Higgins and its Regional Council, called "Transfer innovation and optimization of irrigation in blueberries." A few days ago the closing activity of this program was carried out, which sought to increase the efficiency in the use of water and energy resources in the production of these berries at the local level.

“This initiative for the Regional Government is very important, since it contributes to increasing the competitiveness of blueberry producers, especially in international markets and providing them with knowledge and technologies to make them more efficient in the use of water resources. These types of projects are those that the Mayor and Core have been prioritizing, since they are a real and concrete contribution to regional economic development. ” Ignacio Tello, Head of the Division of Development and Industry.

For his part, José Ignacio Covarrubias, an agronomist at the University of Chile and project director, said that two problems had to be solved, “the first was to find tools to increase efficiency in the use of irrigation water and fertilization, and second, attract management strategies, solve and improve soil compaction problems in the blueberry. Therefore, the heart of the project was focused on mitigating the effects of drought, through advice and technology transfer in training.

He added that through the technologies tested in this project, they achieved reductions greater than 30% in the application of irrigation water associated with energy costs, increasing in turn the productivity of the plants. “Thus the goals were met exceeding expectations. In some fields a reduction in water use was achieved, while in others it increased because the producers were watering less than the plant needed. They also achieved reductions in fertilization programs greater than half, achieving superior results, ”he explained.

Rodrigo Osorio, also an agronomist from this higher education house and in charge of executing the project on the ground, highlighted how happy the favored producers were with the support of various prestigious institutions through technical support. “They bet to export their product since they reach better prices and the volume of sales is much greater than the national market. In these three seasons of analysis we had very successful cases with the incorporation of probes which with telemetry aim to improve irrigation management by specifying the irrigation time and its frequency. This brought a reduction in costs, plant growth and better yield. Therefore, this technology helps to make more informed decisions. ”


This innovation strategy was executed in the provinces of Colchagua and Cardenal Caro directly benefiting about 40 small farmers of this fruit. Felipe Morales de San Fernando and administrator of an orchard of 1,7 hectares, indicated that this program has benefited them and has given them a lot. “We achieved a transition from irrigation that we used to do to the eye, now we use technology that allows us to save, give the crop what it really needs and produce more sustainably. This is because the professionals were very technical in explaining where and in what we should improve. With the use of telemetry we were able to identify with the cell phone, if we are missing or left over irrigation. We can have a significant saving in fertilizers since by fertilizing a lot the fertilizer is lost ”.

For his part, Juan Lizana of the Marchigue commune, owns a total of three hectares with a partner. "It has been a very enriching experience because they have been new things that we have learned, that many times one ignores, because we are behind in technology or due to lack of time." And he added that the drought has been very complicated for them. "This has helped us to irrigate with the water that the plant really needs, therefore they react better by improving the quality of them."

In addition to training producers, this FIC project did the same with students from agricultural schools and INDAP consultants, in talks and field days showing technologies that optimize irrigation management, its relationship with the soil and effective fertilizer use For these berries.

Frost on blueberries

Water management and soil development for blueberries was the central development of this project.

In 2019 these farmers were damaged by frost episodes in the season. That is why we wanted to integrate this topic into the closing seminar. Many of them had significant production loss damaging the crop and plant.

That is why Gabino Reginato, an agronomist at the University of Chile, talked about the conditions in which these low temperatures occur, how they affect their crops and how they can be prevented. “Depending on the degree of this climate event, passive or more active actions can be taken. Experts say that these conditions will become increasingly acute, ”he explained.

The Rancagüino

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