The only way to obtain maqui nowadays is through harvesting wild trees, since so far has not been developed a technological package for its commercial production. For this reason, the volume obtained is limited and cost is high. With the presentation of first maqui clones in SAG (Agricultural and Livestock Service, the official Chilean State body responsible for supporting the development of Chile’s agriculture, forestry, and livestock industries by protecting and enhancing plant and animal health), starts registration process so farmers can finally produce this coveted Chilean berry.
A total of eight years has taken the project to finally select maqui clones with superior productive and industrial features, a joint work of Fundación Chile and University of Talca. “These fruits have a big demand in the international market since they have multiple benefits for health. This project is an opportunity to continue promoting the antioxidant industry in the country, thing that already happened with raspberries and blueberries” explained Verónica Larenas, project manager of Fundación Chile.
This fruit has a big demand in the international market since it has multiple benefits for health, especially because of its antioxidants properties.
Patricia Klein, Technology Transfer Director of University of Talca, said that “the inscription request of the 3 clones constitute and important milestone in the long-term development of this work. These first selections are the starting point for the commercial settlement of the maqui in Chile, since we are going to be pioneers in offering varieties allowing relatively homogenous crops and stable in time”.
This unparalleled development is a big credit to the research team who participated in different processes selecting maqui genetic material. “This important event will allow University of Talca to make available in the market a different fruit resource highly demanded in the world. This way, we will be able to transform Chile in a world certified maqui producer, starting from a productivity-proof vegetable material” added the Technology Transfer Director.
Blueberries versus Maqui
Comparing blueberry with maqui, production volumes are quite different. In the 2014-2015 season 140 thousand tons of fresh blueberries were produced, while with maqui the production was estimated to between 500 and 600 tons of fresh fruits annually, which is 200 tons of processed product under different forms (frozen, powder, juice, canned, dehydrated and others). The project to obtain maqui clones started with the study of maqui wild fields located in different areas of Chile, from where initial plants were selected. Then, with experimental purposes, this material was planted in different climates and environments, to observe the development of those trees and define actions in order to increase productivity.
“Nowadays, maqui harvesting is not sustainable since the pickers cut the branches of the trees and shake them in order for the fruit to be released. The Project looks to avoid this bad practice and protect the wild vegetable material, so the agroindustry may grow maqui in a cost-effective way, besides having a permanent supply”, said Verónica Larenas, Fundación Chile’s expert.
The researcher of Agro Science Faculty University of Talca, Hermine Vogel, who is leading the project, explained that “the three clones we registered will let us get maqui fruits with homogeneus quality for the processing of standarized products, since they are varieties that have been studied and tested in different places to support good yielding terms and quality of the fruits”.
“The selected genetic material involves an important aspect for the market since we will keep a genetic variability to offer different clones to farmers. In this way, is any plant would be sensitive to frosting or any disease, there is the posibility to choose another variety, to decrease the risk of losing the total production”, highlights the researcher to point out another advantage that will optimize the maqui production.
Benefits of the berry
The maqui business is associated with interest in healthy eating habits since the fruit has an extremely superior antioxidant quality compared to other berries. The ORAC method measures this capacity in fruits, stating that blueberries have 6.500 ORAC units; acaí, 16.700; and maqui reaches out 27.600, being only superior by calafate, which is also a native Chilean fruit.
Furthermore, another property of maqui is that contributes to moderate the glycemic index, therefore, control diabetes and is under research a possible positive effect on Alzheimer prevention
With these data, companies as well as consumers demand the fruit, which opens a door for its development in a non-traditional way. “Many functional ingredients in different formats can be created from maqui, for example dehydrated or in powder, so it can be added to other foods”, said Verónica Larenas, Fundación Chile’s expert.
The supply of maqui for different industries experiences a positive impact thanks to technics for managing the crops and the optimal post harvesting manipulation. This will allow a considerable increase in the productions of these highly-demanded fruit. “Through this study we have solid evidence that will let us protect wild crops and promote cultivated maqui”, added the researcher of University of Talca.
Thanks to the property of this berry, the maqui clones project answers to the demand of the international market for food that contributes for health improvement. Besides, this initiative, opens the industry for continuing de development of antioxidants in Chile.