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Idesia (Arica)

versão On-line ISSN 0718-3429

Idesia vol.38 no.2 Arica jun. 2020 


Water monitoring in Chilean Viticulture and its application in other areas

Richard Marcelo Bustos Peña** 

2University of Tarapacá

Winegrowing is a very dynamic sector in Chile. This industry has increasingly specialized in high-quality wines, taking advantage of the wine-producing valleys' particular climate and soil conditions. Chilean wines have led the country's export development, contributing to reinforcing Chile's image as a supplier of quality agricultural products and thus helping to open the way to other agricultural products. The national viticulture reaches from the Tarapacá region in the north to Los Lagos region in the south, with a higher concentration in the Maule region. One of the reasons for this development is the technological advances used in the production process, especially in irrigation management, which affects the quality of the fruit, the yield, and the final product (wine).

Water management in vines is essential since it has been shown that vines under a certain threshold of water stress manage to control vegetative vigor and allow the expression of some quality factors in the berries. Additionally, it seeks to optimize water resources because of the decrease in annual rainfall due to climate change at a global level, encouraging producers to improve irrigation strategies to increase water use efficiency.

The influence of climate change could affect water resources availability, which represents a new challenge for the sustainable development of productive systems. This effect can be seen in the significant increase in average temperature and the reduction in annual rainfall. As a result of these changes, regions could experience increasingly severe droughts, where irrigation management makes it possible to ensure the crop's water demand. Therefore, the precise determination of the water needs in vines is crucial for the planning and management of water resources.

Micrometeorological methods, such as Eddy Covariance, Bowen ratio, and Surface Renewal, used to estimate crop evapotranspiration, are considered very efficient and accurate. These methods are based on the surface energy balance equation, which considers all system losses due to water evaporation. Methodsfor evapotranspiration estimation such as the Bowen ratio or the Eddy Covariance System are complex to operate, have a high cost, and require thorough maintenance, making it intricate to use and apply extensively in traditional agriculture. For this reason, they are restricted to academia and scientific research.

However, in the late 1990s, several UC Davis researchers developed a new methodology for crop water monitoring called Surface Renewal. This method is a simple, low-cost system that does not require highly qualified personnel to operate. Several investigations support the work and the obtained results. Tests with this technology have been developed in prominent wine industries with considerable results. Furthermore, works in other crops and other productive systems such as green houses have been reported. These results suggest valuable perspectives for the development of this technology in the northern areas of our country, which, given their cultivation characteristics in arid or semi-arid conditions, require more precision in estimating water needs and water monitoring of crops.

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