Total success: 250 attendees linked to table grapes were more than happy with the international seminar on the use of rootstocks in table grapes.

The table grape industry was very satisfied with the holding of the First International Seminar on the Use of Rootstocks in Table Grapes, held in the largest producing area of this fruit, in our country: Aconcagua Valley.

The more than 250 attendees, mostly producers from the Aconcagua Valley, advisers, and exporters met at the Termas El Corazón Hotel, located in San Esteban, Los Andes province, which was organized by the Institute of Agricultural Research - INIA.

During the event, the challenges facing the sector were raised, including stagnation in prices, rising production costs and the search for technological solutions to achieve greater profitability in the industry. There were reflections about the moment that not only the table grape industry but also the national fruit industry is experiencing in terms of a market that is changing and the presence of a different consumer.

Through the international exhibitors who presented the experience of California, South Africa and Australia, in addition to the work carried out by INIA researchers, the attendees were able to learn about the experience and results that the rootstocks tested in the fields of producers in the valley and in the invited countries.

Attendees received three technical bulletins containing results of studies carried out in the Valley in recent years. These were "Rootstocks in table grapes: experiences in the Aconcagua Valley" (INIA Bulletin No. 251), "Soil compaction and its control: case studies in the Aconcagua valley" (INIA Bulletin No. 234), " table grape irrigation: experiences in the Aconcagua Valley ”(INIA Bulletin No. 242).

Martín Silva, private advisor, He congratulated INIA and commented on this event. “The delivery of these three bulletins, the information that has been generated, the joint work with the private sector, the participation of the industry has shown that Chile can investigate by gathering valuable information. It fills me with pride to have this technical human group from INIA. For us consultants, working with a scientific basis is much easier. It gives us the opportunity to talk about irrigation with numbers in hand and see how those numbers rose, making the industry more powerful. I find this to be very good ”.

Gabriel Marfán, technical manager of Exportadora Subsole He was the one who opened this seminar, delivering a comprehensive vision of the industry, its challenges and where international demands and requirements regarding varieties and product characteristics are pointing. “The basic requirement for a variety is that it be multi-market. As an exporter, we cannot think of having a specific variety of niche, which we always send to the same place. Today the main thing is that it is seedless, that it is productive (it is the basis of the business), that it does not have high production costs, that it tastes good and that we be socially responsible and sustainable from an environmental point of view ”.

"Today we saw that rootstocks are capable of increasing productivity significantly, therefore it is a technology available to the sector. There are also others that we have seen here, such as soil preparations prior to planting that are basic to have high, fast and sustained productivity over time and we are not doing it because we consider them expensive. There are also the technologies of the covers, for example, the meshes are capable of increasing productivity in areas of high wind and high radiation. Plastics are capable of moving harvest dates and that has a direct impact on profitability, they are capable of protecting fruit against rain and / or delaying a fruit by keeping it on the vine looking for the best commercial windows at the ends ”.

Subsole's technical manager stressed that cost savings must be done, but you have to know where to do it. "The truth is that there are a number of technologies that can be applied, but further research and new rootstock projects are required, an aspect that is difficult for the industry to develop."

In summary, said Marfán, the challenge for the producer is to seek technologies such as the use of rootstocks, energy efficiency, and water management, which allow them to increase productivity per hectare and that will be reflected in a reduction in costs per hectare. . In other words, productivity is key to production but at reasonable costs. "Table grapes have a base cost that cannot be avoided and when that level is lowered, it begins to put the quality of the fruit and productivity at risk."

Today, he stressed, “there are varieties to plant of whatever you want, the issue is that the decision requires a step-by-step evaluation because it is easy to make mistakes. Today, we are looking with a large magnifying glass at everything there is and with a smaller magnifying glass we make the selections that must be 10 or 12 varieties. Of these there are 7 varieties that are being planted in our country. Let us remember that there must be about 200 varieties of table grapes and about 10 or 15 programs ”.

Gabriel Sellés, coordinator of the seminar and director of the project  "Increased productivity and competitiveness of table grapes from the V Region of Chile through the use of rootstocks tolerant to soils with physical limitations and agronomic management techniques that improve aeration conditions in the root zone", financed by Innova Corfo, said that while rootstocks are a good technique to increase productivity, they can cause the fruit to take longer to mature. "It is necessary to take into account the soil conditions, since the results of the experiment that was carried out in this study will not be given in all situations."

The exhibitors recommend the use of rootstocks as it will help to improve the profitability of the farms and therefore increase the productivity of the industry. The question is whether you are willing to take the risk or not.

Let us remember that INIA carried out a study for more than three seasons in the Aconcagua Valley, testing rootstocks in the Thompson Seedless variety. One of the main and most influential factors that they detected was the air capacity of the soil, since according to the experts, if the air capacity was above 15%, the productivity of the plants increased considerably, obtaining more fruit and, depending on the behavior rootstock, greater vigor and quality in the fruit.

According Raúl Ferreyra, researcher at INIA La Cruz, When soils are above 15% in their air capacity, more complete fruit boxes have been obtained. This, he said, "is a great challenge for the Aconcagua Valley, which contributes more than 20% in total table grape exports, since the 80% of the soils are under that range."

Through a previous study it had already been concluded that the Valley had two problems in the soils: high compaction and low air capacity. One of the reasons why this situation occurs is excess water. Therefore, managing these variables is essential when trying to increase the productivity of the table grape category.

The rootstocks that performed best in the experiment were Richter and Freedom, which when in conditions above 15% in air capacity showed a substantial increase in their productivity. An example is that, in a farm with ungrafted plants, the average production is 1,770 boxes per hectare, while in one with rootstock the average increases to 2,271. Richter is the one with the highest productivity with an average of 2,900 boxes per hectare. "A particular situation that occurred in the third season is that Richter decreased his performance and frankly increased it."

Gabriel Sellés He concluded at the round table that today concrete demands on the quality and condition of the fruit, in addition to environmental and social demands, can no longer be ignored. One way of being able to provide solutions to these requirements is with our own technologies and this is generated with joint work between producers and INIA, such as the one we have carried out for almost 17 years in the Aconcagua Valley. We have found here an enormous opening on the part of the producers and exporters, they have allowed us to do the experiments in their fields, causing them at times inconvenient in their harvest periods. I believe that the synergy that we achieve is a lesson to continue, especially if we want to maintain a technological level and export activity in the future. The associated work of research organizations and producers is vital and has to be very close. Sometimes it is difficult to understand agricultural producers, what we do recognize is that they are in this because it is a business but essentially because they like it and it is an activity that makes them happy ”.

International experiences

Jennifer Hashim, consultant and researcher for the Andy Walker program in California, He explained about the experience in the tests of rootstocks in the USA where, although the soil and climate conditions are similar to those of Chile, the challenge is to find the perfect combination of variety and rootstock that is resistant to nematodes.

In his research, the Saltcreek rootstock, also called Ramsey, appeared as one of the patterns that best suited the soil conditions (with high salinity) and resistance to nematodes. In addition, he commented that today we not only seek to have resistant plants, but also that they are vigorous, that generate fruit of good color and flavor.

Pieter Raath, researcher and academic at Stellenbosch University in South Africa He said that South Africa over many years has chosen two patterns to use that perform best in most conditions. “Today the 80% of the farms with new plantations are with rootstocks from Ramsey (Saltcreek) or Richter. We have simplified things by taking care of two rootstocks that have given us good results. This has been a long job and I believe that Chile has the advantage of knowing these experiences and being careful to make less mistakes. Of course, our soils are different from those of Chile. The approach that has been given to the standards in Chile is that they are not vigorous, that there is a good affinity between the standard and most of the varieties. Ramsey is probably too vigorous for the conditions in Chile. “When I have spoken with friends in Chile they tell me that their biggest problem is that they have a lot of fruit that falls and we do not have these problems thanks to the rootstocks, which make the plants much more vigorous. It is very difficult to select a certain pattern because there are many factors that must be taken into account. So the message is to choose very wisely and test different samples.

Your opinion regarding the Chile study. “I am very impressed by the support it received from the industry. Paulsen could be good for Chile, Richter 110 too. I am very in favor of what Dr. Sellés said about irrigation management. It is true that when a lot of water is extracted from the soil, the size of the berry decreases. What Dr. Sellés did not mention is that vegetative growth is diminished by the effect of reducing the water content of the soil. We asked him if he thought this was important in the case of vigorous rootstocks that can be a problem for us, that by reducing the water content we could reduce that vigor. Said it wasn't important.

We asked you about the existence of breeding programs in your country. He said, “30 or 40 years ago there were programs. Now there is no reason why the industry thinks that it is not important to invest in genetic improvement ”. You know about Andy Walker's work in California. In South Africa they are considering trying these varieties although they believe that conditions in South Africa may not be the same in the USA.

He also knows of the existence of works that a Hungarian researcher has been developing for 4 years, who works in a program for the genetic improvement of patterns in wine grape varieties. But do not know the details.

Feedback

Hugo Pardo, Rio Blanco Exporter

“It seemed like a seminar with a good technical and agronomic level. Rootstocks and new varieties are relevant topics for an industry in Chile that needs to prepare for the next 10 or 20 years. We saw how South Africa has been working with rootstocks for 100 years, they have Ramsey and Richter 110. Pieter Raath mentioned more than 43 species that they have tested. However, in our country, rootstocks have been tested in recent years, but with more interest and data in the last decade. Therefore, this is a tremendous kick for what awaits us because the industry needs to adapt to the new varieties and the new rootstocks that have to support these varieties. Even more so considering that the market requirements of these new varieties come from the hand of those who produce them. Remember that they are made by US companies, which are the ones that produce varieties to consume them. We as suppliers have to test those varieties for our condition. The information delivered in this seminar gives a tremendous kick to the research and it is to be expected that it will be replicated for other areas of the country because it is vital for the industry ”.

Horacio Parra, Agrícola Brown production manager.

“The quality of the presentations and the results that have been shown have been very interesting. For the first time, tools have been shown that can be used in our fields in production to improve the profitability and sustainability of table grapes in the valley. The guests who have exhibited have been a very important contribution. I have had the opportunity to share with foreign exhibitors who have a great knowledge in the production of grapes on rootstocks. I congratulate INIA for this project closing seminar ”.

More information Eliana San Martín C., Periodista, M.Sc. Head of Communications INIA La Cruz, e-mail: 321780 annex: 2243.