Archive for the ‘Chile’ Category

My Chile Trip: A Closer Look at Chile Irrigation Systems

February 20, 2009

After visiting different fields across Chile, I really came to appreciate the differences in irrigation methods.  On the larger fields, pivots are becoming more common but there is still many stationary guns and even flood irrigation.  Most irrigation water is transported by dirt ditch while cement ditch infrastructure is underway.  Chilean farmers are able to grow very good crops with quite primitive irrigation methods.    

My Chile Trip: A Chilean Silage Pit

February 16, 2009
While looking at fields on a country back road we spotted a silage pit.  Immediately I was interested because of the look of the pit.  It was made very low to the ground due to small equipment owned by the farmer.  The other key characteristic was that the pit was covered in dirt and plastic and not tires.  The dirt was quite loose on the top of the pit and was not packed itself.  To feed his dairy animals, the farmer would pull up to the pit with his small wagon and tractor and pitch the silage into the wagon by hand.  Yes I said by hand.   
Here is a picture of the dairy that owned the silage pit.    

My Chile Trip: Tree Farms Cover the Landscape

February 16, 2009

Very early into my trip I quickly noticed the forests lining the Route Cinco (main highway) were tree farms.  Hectares and hectares of tree farms populate the landscape of Chile.  Forestry is a major industry in Chile and tree farms are a big part of it.  We don’t necessarily think of tree farming as agricultural but on the Chilean landscape it seems much more integrated.  Both of the above pictures were taken from canola fields which shows that grain farming and forestry must coexist side by side.  This is something we are not very used to in Canada.   You can see in the below video that the trees are uniform and easy to spot in comparison to natural forrest.  Chile is known for its rainforest species that are not found anywhere else in the world.    

My Chile Trip: Winter Canola and Salmon Industry Have Trouble

February 11, 2009

Like many industries based on plant science and biology, there is alot of risk. This is definitely the case with the collapse of the Chilean salmon and winter canola industry. Due to lack of proper environmental practices and controls the salmon farms have been infected with a virus which is killing the salmon population. Consequently this has also significantly affected the winter canola business because its used in salmon feed rations. Compounding this issue is that there is no on farm storage in Chile. There are 40,000 acres of winter canola in chile which provides a nice rotation for wheat farmers.

According to a recent story by, “Salmon is not a native species in Chile, but was introduced for farming in the 1980s. Today it is the second most important Chilean export, after copper…The United States and Japan are the world’s leaders in the harvest of wild salmon, while Norway and Chile are close competitors for the top spot in raising farmed salmon, responsible for 38.7 and 37.9 percent, respectively, of global production.”

The virus is called infectious salmon anemia or ISA, and is threatening the waters of chile.
In a March 2008 story in the New York Times “All these problems are related to an underlying lack of sanitary controls,” said Dr. Felipe C. Cabello, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at New York Medical College in Valhalla that has studied Chile’s fishing industry. “Parasitic infections, viral infections, fungal infections are all disseminated when the fish are stressed and the centers are too close together.”

For Chilean farmers that grow winter canola it has been a tough year because the salmon industry is struggling and many acres of winter canola have been grown without a contract and they have no on farm storage. I met with one Chilean farmer who told me that it is a very tough time for winter canola growers with the commodity crash and the lack of canola buyers.

The salmon industry is working hard to rebuild itself but not without challenges as output is expected to drop 30 percent in 2009. Fish are still dying while the industry tries to increase the environmental and feeding practices of the industry. Some critics say that not enough is being done while others just want the salmon industry to stabilize so that the winter canola business has an end use market for farmers.

My Trip to Chile

February 5, 2009

I will be in Chile until February 14th. I am going to try and post to the blog as much as I can while I am here but I will probably be able to add the majority of the content after I get back.

So far on my trip I have toured several canola fields and spent time in the back country this afternoon. I am staying in Temuco with a friend and it has really allowed to see the real Chile and stay away from the touristy destinations. Chilean agriculture is very interesting from the sense that there is many different things happening here. In the north around Santiago there is corn seed production and in the south there is a growing canola seed production industry. Chile also has dairies, sheep and cattle.

The main crop seems to be wheat (spring and winter) along with oats and forages. The country is currently harvesting and the yields are lower than past years. While here, I will be visiting different processing plants, field sites and a couple feedlots.
I look forward to sharing some of my trip with you over the coming weeks.