Genetics of Chilean fruit comes out to conquer the global market

Genetics of Chilean fruit comes out to conquer the global market

Despite the fact that Chile is a world leader in export of fruits, most of his varieties have been developed abroad and adapted to the country. However, in the last 20 years did a growing local genetics in different fruit tree development. There is a Chilean grapes, nectarines, raspberries, apples among others, which are not only producing fruits, they are planting in various parts of the world.

The bunches are conical, size medium, with a weight between 650 and 850 grams. The berries are uniform, about 22 millimeters, of intense bluish black, seeded. Its taste suggests high levels of sugar that are balanced with acidity. And their productivity is also attractive: can deliver 35 tons per hectare, and fruit that has a period of post harvest of more than 90 days, i.e., resists well long journeys.

It's iniagrape-one. And although the name seems rather the ingredient used in detergent to remove stubborn stains, is really a commercial table grape variety 100 percent Chilean.

His official debut was in January 2016, the experimental centre of the Instituto de investigaciones livestock, INIA, in vicuña, its gestation began in 2010 with the breeding program for the development of new varieties of table grapes according to the national and international market, developed by INIA and funded by Corfo and the private sector through the Biofrutales Consortium.

Brand new pure stock Chilean grapes, began to export at a rate of 150 thousand cases during the current season and as variety is being commercialized, by ANA, Andes New Varieties Administration, in 14 countries, including Peru, Egypt, South Africa and Australia. There will be cultivated, harvested and sold as a one of a kind fruit and whose origin is Chile.

His birth was not a coincidence, but it responds to a desire to dating for nearly 30 years, when the country was already an exporting powerhouse of fruits and particularly of table grapes. But what was grown in the country were the California varieties, which although they were very well in Chile, required not only to adapt to local conditions, but it involved royalties that increased cultivation.

Nevertheless, for decades in Chile there was increased interest in having own varieties. "At the beginning of the 80s were consulted to private on the property of vegetable and fruit and was not subject to them. Had gone to California and Europe and had brought all the varieties, is here evaluated them and were selected the best to produce them"says Julio Kalazich, national director of INRA.

The concern recently occurred at the end of the 90's. The trigger was the Upov (International Union for the protection of new varieties of plants, according to its acronym in French), an International Convention founded in Paris in 1961 and that it sought to provide rights of intellectual property to the new varieties. Upov was revised in 1971, 1978 and 1991 and Chile have subscribed to it like other 73 Nations.

"Upov ' 91 gave companies having properties of varieties more legal tools to protect their invention and in Chile began to grow the fear that when one fruit either reached a port in Europe, the breeder of the variety could do "tests and say: 'this grape is mine' and as there was a port attached to the Upov'91, you could apply that standard and commandeer a full boat", explains Kalazich.

Fortunately, that did not occur, but was a powerful enough incentive for the concern about having their own varieties will be installed in Chile. "It was also a problem of competitiveness, Chile is number 1 exporter in the world in table grape and not have an own variety was a loss of great competitiveness", adds the director of INRA.

Not only private ones were interested but that public policy, and led to the creation of technological consortia, mainly funded by Corfo, and with the participation of the private sector and universities around the country. While oriented themselves to solve relevant problems in various sectors, in fruit topic of varieties that respond to specific needs of Chile, as post-harvest duration, was one of the aspects that were concentrated.

"If I have a super block, but is not able to travel, is not going to be able to compete. That is the challenge of genetics,"says Rodrigo Cruzat, Manager of Biofrutales, consortium comprised by INIA, the universities of Chile, Talca, Andrés Bello and Federico Santa María, Fedefruta and three nurseries.

That criterion is not present in other countries to create varieties that are close to their markets. California produces fruits that can be within 24 hours in New York and Spain arrives with their raspberries to Northern Europe in a matter of days. But in the case of Chile, you have to go from one hemisphere to another and there are markets like the Chinese may take more than 60 days to reach the consumer.

Cruzat has therefore they began a program of new varieties of nectarines. "The first thing we ask is that travel, which are round and red, but travelling". He explains that there are fruits that naturally endure trips, like apples that can be saved for 60 days "but with nectarines to the 3 or 4 weeks already the thing begins to give boat."

And successful results of this commitment to generate own developments are today being: Biofrutales has 6 registered varieties: a grape, a peach and four of nectarines. Each with specific characteristics that respond to market needs, such as color, harvest - to respond to specific market-periods, gauge, flavor, sugar, acidity content and... of course, the long-awaited long post-harvest. Currently working on variations of pome fruits, stone fruits, cherry, citrus, avocados, nogales.

But the grape is not alone in the genetic advances that make Chile.

Berries with female force

Get a new variety takes at least 10 years, according to experts. Even fourteen. It depends on the fruit. The period between born plant or tree and produces fruit - called juvenilidad - is 3 years in the case of nectarines, 2 grapes, apples 6 and 10 in the case of the avocados. After a fruit, it is crossed and wait three years to be sure how will be the fruit. Subsequent to that have to see if it works in different types of soils and climates of the country and if you do well, newly it is property that is in the presence of a new variety.

But sometimes the same thing can be achieved more quickly.

It is what did Marina Gambardella, PhD in biotechnology and academic in the Faculty of Agronomy and forestry Sciences at the Catholic University. She leads a team of 11 women doomed to the genetic improvement of the raspberry, which began in January 2009.

This team works together with the Association of exporters of Chile and 27 companies producing and exporting fruits that make up the technological fruit Consortium created the year 2006.

They currently work in pits, cherry, Apple and raspberry breeding programs. It is in the latter where have had more progress.

"Chile being the third country producer of this fruit was that we depended on a single variety: the heritage." It is a variety that is already released because it is old data and features good for Chile because they are very rustic, the problem is that you have a fruit of very small size and shape and quality of the fruit was not complying with the demands of the market" , explains Gambardella.

Account that were objective improve the productivity and quality of fruit in size to facilitate harvest. They started in 2009. Six years later were already presenting requests for patenting three new varieties: santa catalina, santa clarita and santa teresa.

"Now we can already sell our varieties with royalties, the three that are competing very well and have been incorporated in the major leagues in Chile and other countries", the researcher prides.

They did not just in record time but it also managed to considerably improve the fruit. Size increased relative to the heritage, especially in the santa teresa variety which is almost double. The performance improved and also the ease of harvest since was that detachment is much easier.

The speed with which succeeded was in part because they were in a race against the Spanish researchers, who had developed varieties of strawberries and were preparing to work in raspberries. "We arrived first. It was a race against time and we show that it can, but that has a cost,"he says.

It said that of the 11 people who make up his team, three are leading researchers and that since they have is entirely devoted to the improvement they have not failed to make new academic publications and improve your resume. "That's a big cost. When the University of California hired breeders, the contract stipulated that for 14 years they were released to publications. That's an incentive,"he stressed.

Expanding borders of cherry

Cherry, in recent years, has become the darling of Chilean exports. With little competition in the southern hemisphere, the country became the main supplier of China.

In this case the research is focused on developing a product that can be harvested before and after the normal period. From the year 2010 than in the INIA work to achieve a larger size, firmness, color and fruit yield. But its most ambitious goal is to increase the border where it is grown. "Today 80% of cherry tree occurs in the sixth and seventh regions, but we're trying to that it can grow from the Fourth Region to the South," says Julio Kalazich.

To do this they need varieties that have lower requirements of cold to be able to flourish, since the fruit needs more than 800 hours of cold each year, but in areas like Quillota there are about 400 hours of cold and Ovalle less. "It's a big technical challenge," says Rodrigo Cruzat.

And there would be progress, but there is still way to go. "We have advanced genetic lines, but we are far to make it a variety still. We are aiming at higher quality, good travel and which respond to fewer hours of cold. We hope in 2020 or 2022 to sing victory", recognizes Kalazich.

Sweet apples and crunchy for 3 months

In the area of the apples they are working a project with the Association of exporters in Chillán.

Pablo Grau, responsible for the program of genetic improvement of Apple in INIA puts as the date for the first Apple variety 100% Chilean year 2021. He says it will be red with yellow dyes and that will emphasize by their crunchiness, balance of sweetness, acidity, aroma, flavor and juiciness. And the best thing is that you can tolerate its quality unchanged for more than 3 months, enough to cover the 50 days by boat and overland transportation within the destination countries.

They are not the only ones. In the Centre of pome fruits of the Faculty of agricultural sciences of the University of Talca are working for more than 10 years on new varieties of apples that resist the climatic conditions of high thermal stress and minimize the damage caused by the Sun. Valeria Leppe, agricultural engineer of the company, says that the general objective of the programme is "obtain cultivars of apples that produce fruit of high organoleptic quality, appearance, adapted to the warm climate and high solar radiation conditions of" the zone manzanera of Chile".

They have already managed to get some hybrids that are at the stage of validation in different agro-climatic conditions. According to Valeria Leppe, there is one in particular that has outstanding features, so you have qualified it as "promising". Keep on like this I would be ready to become a new variety, which could occur within five years.

Endemic and vegetables on the list

While the emphasis has also been placed in commercial orchards in the country comes working to tame and varieties of fruits endemic as recognized by their characteristic nutraceutical maqui and calafate.

María Teresa Pino, Coordinator of the national program of food of INIA, works in pilot plans to use them as natural colorants for food (see box). But also to take advantage of its nutritional properties.

"El calafate is a large contributor of antioxidants. While cranberries has about 5 thousand oracs (absorptive capacity of radicals of oxygen, according to its acronym in English), the calafate has 25 thousand. Five times more. And we are trying to further increase this measure and reach 30 thousand. At the moment we have achieved species having 27 thousand oracs", he says.

There is also that they are providing these plants to the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Chile to investigate the effect of the calafate in diabetes and obesity. "They have evaluated the calafate, Blueberry and maqui and the first anda much better."

In addition, they are working on varieties that have less thorns to improve harvest. Investigations began timidly in 1993, but stopped due to lack of funding. They resumed in 2005 and, according to Diaz, expect to have the first choice next year.

It is also conducting research with peppers, specifically one with greater thickness of pericardium. "When does a cross-section in a pepper is a ring, the thickness of the ring is called pericardium thickness. It is usually 6 mm and we are trying to overcome the 10 mm. "I.e., a pepper that have more pulp and greater degree brix (amount of sugar) and high antioxidant capacity", details María Teresa Díaz.

The project started in 2010 and, according to the researcher, there are still 3 years to release new varieties.

Rice and the Lupine are among those who have specific developments that improve certain characteristics. Developments are also made to generate new varieties of potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots, purple pulp to increase your amount of anthocyanin and generate dyes.

I will try fruit or other products, the resources are the key. The figure has been together, the State, through Corfo, where is the main contributor. According to Rodrigo Cruzat, 10 years ago in Biofrutales were they reversed between 180 and 200 million pesos a year in research. Today goes around 2 billion on average, of which 70% is the State and the rest from private.

Only hear a slight moan regard that Chile began late on this issue.

"We had to be as a flea in the ear to convince many people that this is important," says Marina Gambardella.

Julio Kalazich is aware that this process began late. But he prefers seeing the glass half full: "it is important that we start".

Data: 3 years fail to release the first varieties of calafate. | 10 years takes out a new variety, but can reach 14 years according to the fruit.