Blueberry production in Chile: Current Status and Future Developments
Fecha de publicación2014
Retamales, Jorge B.
Palma, María J.
Morales, Yohannaa A.
Lobos, Gustavo A.
Mena, Carlos A.
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Chile has become a major actor in the blueberry industry as the most important supplier of off-season fresh fruit for the northern hemisphere. Blueberry exports passed from US$ 30 million (around 4,000 tons) in 2000 to US$ 380 million (94,000 tons) in 2011. The characteristics of the major blueberry growing regions (North, Central, South-central and South) are presented in terms of acreage, varieties, management practices, extension of the harvest season, and soil and climatic conditions. Most fruit is from highbush varieties, picked by hand and exported fresh by boat to United States. Largest proportion of fruit is exported from mid December to late January, which coincides with lowest prices. The south-central region (latitudes 34º50´ to 38º15´ S) was in 2007 the most important one with 5,075 ha (51.1% of area planted). Among the challenges for the Chilean blueberry industry in the near future are: 1. Lower profitability due to lower rates of currency exchange and higher costs, 2 - Greater scarcity and higher cost of labor, 3.- Need for higher productivity and sustainable production practices, 4- Fruit of high and consistent quality, and 5.- Greater investment in research. As a case study the article presents three approaches that can help identify areas with low availability of labor and improve its efficiency. The article shows the use of geomatic tools to establish labor availability, application of growth regulators to reduce crop load, increase fruit size and improve harvest efficiency, and the use of shakers to harvest fresh fruit for long distance markets. More research is needed to improve yields, reduce costs and give greater economical and ecological sustainability to the Chilean blueberry industry. Index terms: Biotechnology, growth regulator and plant science