In the middle of the desert of the Tarapacá region, there is an oasis that was the destination of a group of 50 date palms, after leaving Casablanca, Valparaíso Region. It refers to the first of its kind to be reproduced in vitro in the country, those that completed their quarantine, rooting, acclimatization and growth in the fifth region, then were transported to the Santa Rosita oasis, in the northern commune of Pica. The milestone of this first plantation was led by Emma Thompson, Executive Director of Agricultural Innovation at IRAIC AGRI.
Chile did not have more than 30 specimens of this variety to date. The importation was carried out thanks to the agreement made by IRAIC AGRI, which not only multiplies the number of specimens by more than 10 times, but also exceeds the total number of palm trees available in the territory. The project also has previously chosen farmers who will receive palm trees during the course of the project.
“The introduction of the new crop will favor small producers to complement their income and diversify their production, increasing their economic stability and making their production more adjustable to weather conditions. Mainly because date palms provide shade, add organic matter to the soil and support the flora and fauna in desertified regions, favoring a local microclimate that prevents the advance of the desert. In addition, the date is a food that contains valuable nutrients in carbohydrates, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, as well as the pantothenic acid necessary to convert fats into carbohydrates or energy”, added the director.
It should be noted that the world consumption of dates is close to 7 billion tons per year and sales of more than $1,300 million dollars. However, in Chile there is still talk of low consumption since it does not reach 40 grams per person per year. Considering that the national market is very small, the objective of the national production of dates should be aimed at the international market. Therefore, the greatest value proposition of the Chilean date would be the production of a high-quality date in the off-season, when it reaches its highest price.
50 PALM TREES IN PICA
Cristian García, an agricultural engineer from the Arturo Prat University and alternate coordinator of the project, pointed out that “our mission is to establish palm trees in the desert, after the in vitro work carried out by Kelümilla. It is a very big challenge because in the desert there is sand and not agricultural soil, therefore, the land must be prepared, an irrigation system designed, water quality improved and planting conditions favored. Following this, the crops are monitored for the next two years that the project lasts. We are very expectant”.
The objective of the project is to increase the area of units of in vitro palm trees because the possibility of multiplication by seed and suckers is very late. Therefore, through the use of micropropagation technology, the entry into production is accelerated to 3 years, unlike the more than 10 years required from seed.
Associated farmer Luis Buitrago, who received the first 50 units on his property located in Santa Rosita, Pica commune, Tarapacá region, reported that he had obtained the property in the region 10 years ago and once he decided to leave behind his work in the office, he opted for food innovation.
“Thanks to Unap, Kelumilla and IRAIC AGRI I found all the information I needed and the technical support. We already have the first palm tree planted and that leaves me very excited to continue and I hope that the 220 palm trees, which will be planted on 2 hectares, bear fruit. My idea is to produce quality dates with a soft smoothness, a lot of sweetness, characteristics that make them a very desirable food in all the markets of the world, including the countries of the East, Europe and the United States. Above all because Chile has the geographical and climatic conditions to do so. It could even be replicated at least from the Loa River, which has the same quality of sun”, said Buitrago.
The executor of the project, Lucas Brown, added that the progress of the sector is evident since after 24 months of execution of the initiative, “we are able to include in vitro date palms from another country and reproduce them to take them to the Chilean countryside; and at the same time, we are capable of producing palm trees from scratch in the laboratory with genetic material from our soil. We just have to keep replicating it and grow because we have all the favorable weather conditions for its cultivation from Copiapó to the north.”
The Seremi of Agriculture of Tarapacá, Rubén López, stated that “we were able to learn how our entrepreneurs are betting on these innovations. It is a great leap to diversify our food matrix in the region that allows us to think about the present and future development of dates in the region as well as in the country. From the seremia we will support the entrepreneurs so that this IRAIC AGRI project achieves success, for all its investment, over time”.
Most of the date production occurs in the northern hemisphere between the months of July and October of each year. The Chilean production has the advantage of being in January until April. Being the European Union, the United States, Australia, Japan, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, the 10 main importing countries and could be a potential market for the Chilean date. Reported Iraic.info, news and information agency.