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The southernmost nursery in Chile manages to produce more than 130 tons of potatoes in the last three years

The initiative, led by the Agricultural Research Institute (INIA), has made it possible to supply more than 360 small and medium-sized producers per year, thus contributing to the food security of the Magallanes region.

3/27/2024

Potato harvest in the Magallanes region, Chile.

In recent years, the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic region has experienced a true renaissance in potato production, becoming an epicenter of innovation and food sovereignty. This, thanks to two programs of the Agricultural Research Institute (INIA), from the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture, which has allowed the consolidation of the southernmost certified potato nursery in the country.

This tuber is one of the most consumed in Chile and plays a fundamental role in the diet of the national population. In Magallanes, potato consumption per inhabitant is approximately 50 kilos per year and occupies first place in terms of cultivation area in the region: 56 hectares according to the latest INIA report in 2022. However, these figures were threatened in 2020. with the pandemic and, in 2021, with the blockade of international routes, a situation that left Magallanes with a serious risk of food shortages.

In this context, the projects "Recovery of potato production and health in Magallanes" and "Transfer and application of technologies to enhance potato production in Magallanes agriculture" became relevant, led by INIA Kampenaike researcher, Carolla Martínez, and developed with financial support from the Regional Government. The initiatives – which between them total eight years of execution – have contributed to the production of certified genetic material, increasing the supply of potato seeds for small and medium-sized farmers in this region.

To survey these projects and publicize the results obtained during the last three seasons, it was carried out in the Laguna Blanca commune – 60 km away. northwest of Punta Arenas – a milestone that was led by the Undersecretary of Agriculture, Ignacia Fernández and the national director of INIA, Iris Lobos, together with the regional ministerial secretary of Agriculture, Irene Ramírez; the regional director of INIA Kampenaike, Erwin Domínguez, representatives of agricultural services, professionals, leaders and collaborators of INIA. The event was also part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of this research institute.

“This is a potato production project that is fundamental for agriculture and food security in Punta Arenas and other communities in the region. Here we are strengthening the production of certified seeds that are delivered to farmers and that can support the food security of the most vulnerable households with fresh and best quality products,” emphasized the Undersecretary of Agriculture, Ignacia Fernández.

The national director of INIA, Iris Lobos, meanwhile, referred to the arduous research work involved in the institute that she leads. “The milestone of the southernmost potato nursery in Chile shows us that when technology is used in pursuit of productive development, we can do great things to benefit food security and sovereignty,” she emphasized. “In addition, it allows us to know how we will supply Magallanes in a more autonomous way and thus stop depending so much on exports,” she added.

At the place where the harvest took place, the president of the Magallanes Farmers and Related Association, Francisco Patiño, acknowledged that “it has been a great benefit for producers to be able to plant individually in our plots as well as with other associations. The INIA has carried out great work in these 60 years and will continue to do so from now on.”

During the last three seasons, this nursery has produced a total of 130 tons of seed potatoes, which has been able to supply, free of charge, more than 360 small and medium producers per year, with the varieties most desired by them and by consumers: Patagonia INIA, Puyehue INIA and Yagana INIA potatoes.

In addition to this, starting in 2020, the program became part of the diet of the most vulnerable families in the region, delivering more than 15,000 kilos of potatoes per year for consumption, thus contributing to the food security of the region.

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