Advancing Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability — Together

Andres Rodriguez, Agricultural Attaché, Embassy of Chile to the United States

Sustainability and food security are two of the main strategic pillars of the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile. If we want to ensure food security, we must be more efficient and productive—in other words, produce more with less. If this goal is not already challenging enough, obstacles such as climate change, drought, and soil erosion pervade.

Chile is committed not only to food security but also to sustainability, and there’s no other way than to take our creativity to its maximum expression—and let collaborative work take a key role.

One of the main collaborative initiatives between Chilean and U.S. scientific institutions is the NASA DEVELOP program. This year, we celebrate ten years of working together on this successful program. The first project with Chile was snowmelt modeling from the Andean snowpack for more effective water allocation and planning in the Atacama Region of Chile. In the most recent project, in partnership with CIREN (Natural Resources Information Center, under the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture), we worked on calculating specific crop coefficients in the Maipo River Valley using available Earth observations from space, allowing us to evaluate crop evapotranspiration and irrigation requirements without ground instruments. This would enable the potential to improve irrigation efficiency and reduce water consumption. These are great examples of how we can use water more productively.

Another important initiative is the “Systems Approach,” a strategy to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture. After two decades of negotiations, Chile is in the last mile of the authorization process of the Systems Approach for table grape exports to the North American market.

This agreement will allow importers in the U.S. to receive table grapes without methyl bromide fumigation from low pest-prevalence areas in regions of Chile, such as Atacama, Coquimbo, and Valparaíso, that meet the demanding requirements established.

In those eligible areas, the application of methyl bromide will be replaced with different approaches that the Systems Approach considers, such as registration of growers who demonstrate their compliance, traps in orchards, field monitoring, and U.S.-Chile certificate of origin joint inspection to ensure the export of a safer, higher quality, greener product.

This initiative will not only help to reduce the environmental footprint of horticultural production and trade, but will also help to reduce post-harvest loss—a key contributor to improving agricultural productivity.

Let us embrace the spirit of collaboration and innovation as we work together towards food security and safeguarding our planet for future generations, working hand-in-hand to advance productivity and sustainability.

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