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Chile plants the first in vitro reproduced date palms in the country in the oasis of Pica

These are palm trees of the Medjool variety, one of the most valued in the international market for the quality of its fruits, imported from the US by the company Kelümilla, with the support of the Foundation for Agricultural Innovation (FIA).


In vitro reproduced palm, planted in the oasis of Pica (Chile).

The first 50 in vitro date palms in Chile arrived at the Santa Rosita oasis, in the middle of the desert, in the commune of Pica, Tarapacá region, after completing their quarantine, rooting, acclimatization and growth in Casablanca, Valparaíso region . The milestone of the first plantation was led by the executive director of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), Francine Brossard.

To date, Chile did not have more than 30 specimens of this variety. The importation was carried out thanks to an agreement with a company in California, 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 is supported by FIA, with execution by the Kelümilla company and the Arturo Prat University (UNAP) as partners. Also, it has previously selected farmers who will receive palm trees during the course of the project.

“The introduction of the new crop will allow small producers to supplement their income and diversify their production, increasing their economic stability and making their production more adaptable to climate change. Mainly because date palms provide shade, add organic matter to the soil and support the flora and fauna in desertified regions, creating 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”, says the executive director of FIA, Francine Brossard.

To date, world consumption of dates is close to 7,000 million 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

José Delatorre Herrera, Agricultural Engineer from the Arturo Prat University and alternate coordinator of the project, pointed out that “our mission is to establish the palm trees in the desert, after the in vitro work carried out by Kelümilla. It is an enormous 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 established in general. Subsequently, the crops are monitored for the next two years of the project. We are very expectant”.

Therefore, the objective of the project is to expand the area of ​​in vitro palm units because the possibility of multiplication is very slow by seed and suckers. 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.

Juan Rebollo, the associated farmer who received the first 50 units on his property located in Santa Rosita, Pica commune, Tarapacá region, commented that he had obtained the property in the region 10 years ago and once he decided to leave his work behind in the office, he opted for food innovation.

“Thanks to Unap, Kelumilla and the FIA ​​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 Rebollo.

Along these lines, Cristián Holzmann, executor of the project, added that the progress of the sector is evident since after 24 months of execution of the initiative, "we are able to incorporate 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."

Business context

That said, 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 FIA 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.

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