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CHILE
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Overview

Chile's rice-growing area is primarily located in the southern part of the Maule Region and the new Ñuble Region. There are approximately 27,000 hectares of rice grown there, which produces around 130,000-170,000 tons of paddy rice per year. In Chile, the per capita consumption of this cereal per year is around 10 kilos per person. Chilean production supplies approximately 45% of national consumption, so the rest of the demand must be covered with imports, which come mainly from Argentina Uruguay and Paraguay. Eighty percent of the rice grown in Chile is established with pre-germinated under flooded conditions-- with huge volumes of water reaching 22,000 cubic meters/hectare. Most experts there believe this is the only way that the crop can successfully overcome the low temperatures that, at certain times of the year, affect the regions of Maule and Ñuble, where most of Chile's is produced. However, the need to develop a more environmentally sound production strategy that can cope with climate change has led the national rice industry to look for alternatives that allow a more efficient use of the water resource. In a changing agricultural scenario, characterized by greater environmental protection, climate change and scarcity of irrigation water, the Agricultural Research Institute's (INIA) Rice Breeding Program aims to establish new and increasingly sustainable crop production methods. The merger of new water-use efficient varieties and new agronomic management without herbicides together with the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) methodology (still in the experimental phase), is part of this reorientation towards sustainable production.

With initial support and encouragement from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in 2017, INIA began testing SRI methods, which are known for more efficiently using water and other resources. The first four seasons of SRI trials are reported in Karla Cordero's poster presented in 2018 in the 3rd ISRSGH held in Japan. The experimental results from these trials indicated that the best yield (8 t/ha) was obtained with conventional flooded conditions, which was thought to be primarily due to weed control and the thermic water buffer effect. While the SRI and modified SRI plots yielded somewhat less, the SRI plants averaged over thirty productive tillers per plant while the conventionally grown rice had only seven. Cordero concluded that, even though SRI methods did not achieve maximum yield levels, the results are promising considering that 6.5 t/ha were produced using only a third of water used with conventional production methods. This shows that, at a time where water is increasingly scarce, it is possible to produce rice in Chile without using the thermic protection of water. However, if SRI is to be scaled up with transplanting or modified direct dry-seeding, mechanized equipment will need to be made available.

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