Brea in Atacama: from weeds to products with added value

Recovery of brea (Tessaria absinthioides) from the Atacama region as raw material for the production of commercial products” is the name of the project that is being executed by the Technological Development Unit, UDT, and the Faculty of Agronomy of the Universidad de Concepción, funded by the Regional Government of Atacama through the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness (FIC in Spanish). The initiative seeks to develop technologies that provide added value to the brea, a weed that currently invades agricultural crops in the area, particularly olive trees, and that affects the quality of the soils and the yield of the plantations.

In this context, the project will develop and evaluate technically and economically, the elaboration and commercialization of 2 products: Pellet of brea biomass that improves the moisture retention capacity in the soils and Extracts of brea to be used as phytosanitary protector.

In recent years, the agricultural area of the Atacama region has been diminished by about 15%, affecting mainly table grape crops with 910 hectares less and olive trees with 397 hectares less during the 2015-2018 period. This phenomenon has been the consequence of factors such as the historical water scarcity of the region and the excess of salts presented by their soils. These conditions of permanent aridity and the proliferation of weeds such as brea have caused a reduction in the availability of soils suitable for agriculture in addition to reducing the quality and yield of crops due to the lack of water and nutrients essential for their development.

The application of the biomass pellet in the soils of the region would help to manage more efficiently the water resource since the incorporation of organic matter improves the properties of the soil giving it nutrients and favoring its ability to infiltrate and retain water, recovering soils with some degree of desertification to be used as crop areas. Meanwhile, the use of a phytosanitary product of natural origin for the biological control of pests, would increase the profitability of those crops where it is applied, since it would have a lower cost than chemical formulations, besides being innocuous in its application, which would facilitate its manipulation.

Currently the project already has prototypes of both products, pellet and brea extract, with which the laboratory and pilot scale application tests are being carried out to check and measure their efficiency in plants and soils.

In this way, this initiative will directly benefit the agricultural sector of the Atacama region through the management of brea weeds for the production and use of these products, which would contribute to the solution of important problems affecting the sector: scarcity of water and unemployment by increasing the labor demand for all stages of operation and the agricultural productivity in the region by improving the management of water resources and the quality and availability of soil for crops.

Contact: Carla Pérez, Project Manager (c.perez@udt.cl) / Alejandra Pérez, Project Engineer (a.perez@udt.cl)

By |2018-11-15T09:53:12+00:00October 18, 2018|Environment and Services, Sin categoría|