Evolution of soilless culture in Chile
Chile is located between 17°29RSQUO57S and 56°32RSQUOS. About 18 million inhabitants live in regions with contrasting edaphoclimatic conditions. For this, the need to provide fresh, low-cost vegetables all year around, using soil and different techniques of soilless culture in unheated greenhouses becomes necessary. Since the 1990s, commercial hydroponics systems started with small farmers. The technology transfer was supported with local and some international programs. The vegetable production under soilless culture was self-consumption, mainly. These techniques used by growers also were developed in middle-size farms, replicating simple hydroponics techniques with results not as good as expected. During the 2000s, larger farms used methods like NFT and floating systems for leafy vegetables. With these methods it was possible to supply lettuce to supermarkets continuously. Tomato was cultivated using substrates, using fertigation concentrated mainly in northern Chile. As an effect of the per capita income increase, consumers became more demanding in the requirements associated with quality (safety, color, size, cultivar, etc.). Growers looked for continuous production and an increase in yield. The horticultural companies had to innovate in the soilless techniques, management of postharvest. Likewise, commercialization to enter supermarkets must have quality certifications, traceability, a guarantee of working conditions, and constant price throughout the period. In the 2010s, some vegetables grown in hydroponics were considered gourmet products; another advance was to grow vegetables in a desertic area as Antofagasta, using desalinated water. Also, blueberries were cultivated using substrates. The future is promising using renewable energy, automatic control, and strong water treatment for reuse water in hydroponic systems.
Carrasco, G., Manríquez, P., Galleguillos, F., Fuentes-Peñailillo, F. and Urrestarazu, M. (2021). Evolution of soilless culture in Chile. Acta Hortic. 1321, 267-274
hydroponics, vegetables, substrates, food safety, trending