We ended our Climate Smart Agriculture delegation visit last week by visiting the La Serena region of Chile. This region, North of Santiago, is a cool season agricultural region very similar to Ventura and Salinas, California. This region received little rain during the drought and there is an overall downward trend in how much water the region has been receiving over time.
The Government has worked to build several small reservoirs and on-farm irrigation ponds in this region to ensure agricultural needs. One reservoir we visited provides 50,000 acres with water and is capable of holding water to overcome short term droughts and floods that can impact the communities that live in the region. Specialty crops grown here include lettuce, table grapes, grapes for pisco (distilled alcoholic drink) and citrus. At this particular reservoir, operation managers collect weather data and share this information with the growers through smart phone apps. Management of the reservoir was moved from a public project to a privately operated system, after construction, with growers and others paying for operation and maintenance costs.
The La Serena region is also home to a few of the research stations associated with the Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA). Very similar to the University of California Research Extension Centers, INIA focuses on on-farm agricultural research and extension services distribution to farmers through field days (irrigation efficiency and pesticide applications were among the top priorities). Grower outreach and on-farm adaptation of new technologies and practices has proved challenging in the small farm community, but INIA remains dedicated to providing assistance to small farmers in helping them adapt to a climate change.
In reflecting on the California-Chile Climate Smart Agriculture mission, I am very happy at the outcome, humbled to travel with a wonderful group of intelligent and curious stakeholders and look forward to additional information sharing to come through webinars and other activities between California and Chile.