Focused Action

CONTEXT

University of California Davis is a comprehensive campus of the University of California, a leader in interdisciplinary study with more that 100 academic majors and 86 graduate programs. UCD leads The United States in graduate and undergraduate education in biological sciences and is ranked 7th in national research funding among USA public universities. It is a leader in energy research with more than 100 faculty engaged in research areas such as agriculture, renewable energy, biofuels, among others. Since 2012, UCD is ranked 1st among universities in the education and research of Agricultural and Forestry (QS World University Rankings).

Chile and California both have exceptional universities and government research organizations; their fundamental differences lie in how the university and public sector contribute to stimulate their respective agricultural economies. UC Davis has worked over 100 years to develop agricultural innovations and new plant varieties which have improved economic vitality in California, the United States and the rest of the world.

The success of UC Davis is, in part, due to the ability to maintain its position as a premier international research university; and develop a robust technology transfer and innovation program (InnovationAccess). In contrast, Chile’s contribution to these industries has primarily been in the counter-seasonal production services and the exportation of fruits and seeds to overseas markets, including California, the rest of the USA, Europe, Asia and other countries. The majority of varieties and technologies utilized in Chile have been developed in other countries instead of in Chile itself.

LIFE SCIENCE AT THE SERVICE OF AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION

The UC Davis-Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center will initially focus on the agricultural industry, a leading priority for Chile and a strength of UC Davis. The similarities in climate and geography between Chile and California are well known and have been the basis of mutually beneficial developments in the agricultural and food sector. The similar crop production environments but counter-seasonal timing of harvesting and marketing has resulted in significant reciprocal opportunities for trade, particularly in the wine, grape, tree and fruit industries. In addition, the same climatic and geographic advantages have enabled both Chile and California to be optimal locations for seed production of a wide variety of annual crops. Agriculture is a major industry in both Chile and California.

Given the agricultural sector can be quite broad, we will launch the UC Davis-Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center by initially focusing on four strategic areas for the agricultural industry; plant breeding, post-harvest technology and climate change technologies and viticulture and enology.

FOCUSED ACTION

Bioproducts Development

The incorporation of bioproducts in the agricultural industry is key to strengthening and diversifing this sector, which should be more productive and sustainable. For example, in the face of pests that become increasingly resistant to traditional agrochemical treatment, new options, such as using the same microorganisms of agricultural land to cover and protect the seeds and therefore promoting the growth of crops. UC Davis leads applied research in fungi, bacteria and nematodes for development, formulation and scaling of new bioproducts for agriculture in the future.   

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Adaptation to Climate Change

The expected increase of the world’s population to 9 billion people by 2050; the rise in global calorie intake by 60%  between 2000 and 2050 due to greater affluence; as well as the rising demands on land for the generation of food and fuels, will require significant increases in agricultural productivity in the context of more constrained availability of resources. With agriculture contributing to food and economic security, the impacts of climate change on agriculture have repercussions on livelihoods, food production, and the overall economies of countries. At the same time, the agricultural sector holds significant climate change mitigation potential through reductions of greenhouse gas emissions as well as enhancement of agricultural sequestration.

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Post-Harvest

Globally, food loss and postharvest waste are estimated at 30 to 40% of production. Losses of perishable foods such as fruits and vegetables can be even higher during the postharvest period, depending on the weather, access to storage, or distance to markets.

Utilizing improved postharvest practices often results in reduced food losses, improved overall quality and food safety, and generates higher profits for growers and marketers.

Chile and California have a diversified agriculture with hundreds of specialty crops and share a number of fruit and vegetable varieties. However, due to their counter-season growing climates the two geographies often target the same overseas market. Thus, a natural collaboration area is to address post-harvest issues which are of high importance to our agricultural industries.

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Viticulture and Enology

The wine industry in both California and Chile is a major agricultural sector that continues to grow in volume as well as in quality of premium wines. The quality and value of wines are determined by a complex interplay of grapevine genetics, soil conditions, climate, maturity, fermentation and aging. 

There are opportunities for science-based interventions at each one of these stages in the wine production process to improve the final product and its economic value. Because of the climactic similarities between Chile and California, the same grape varieties are grown in Chile and California and the conditions for wine production are very similar. However, there are some differences as well, particularly with regard to the most important pests and disease. For example, Phyloxera is a significant soil pest in California but is not present in Chile. Thus, there is the opportunity to share information and research results but there is also a need for research directed to the unique conditions in Chile.

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