Systems to establish bioclimatic analogies to predict the area of adaptability of plant species to new environments: The case of Moringa oleifera Lam. in Chile

Fernando Santibáñez1*, Javier Mendoza1, Carlos Muñoz1, Carolina Caroca1, Paula Santibañez1, and Loreto Prat1
Adaptability of a species to new territories is generally assessed by costly trial and error in situ experiments distributed throughout different agroclimatic environments. Nowadays climatic data are available to allow the construction of climatic maps based on data provided through world or local networks of climatic weather stations. The objective of this work was to establish a bioclimatic protocol, based on current and available sources of climate information, to make rapid surveys of suitability for plant species in a given environment. Moringa oleifera Lam. species, native from India, was chosen considering its rusticity and the increasing interest on this species due to its multiple uses, nutritional value, and medicinal properties. The first phase of this work was a compilation of data from climatic downscaling (WorldClim), University of East Anglia database (CRU), FAO database, and an historic datasets from Chilean meteorological stations. This information was used to test two different models to compare bioclimatic profiles, considering relevant climatic variables for plant adaptation: maximum and minimum temperatures, accumulated degree days, frost regime, and air humidity. The first approach, based on climatic analogy, was to compare each of these variables between Chilean and foreign localities, and the second, based on bioclimatic suitability, focus on the degree of meeting the minimum bioclimatic requirements by the species in each locality. This paper provides some tools to make this kind of comparisons. Both approaches were tested using M. oleifera as target. Both approaches were complementary and prove to be useful for identifying potential areas where the species could be cultivated. The use of these approaches suggested the existence of some bioclimatic suitability for this species in the coastal areas with mild winters and frosts, from 27° to 37° S lat.
Keywords: Bioclimatic suitability, germplasm adaptability, germplasm evaluation, moringa.
1Universidad de Chile, Facultad de Ciencias Agronómicas, Casilla 1004, Santiago, Chile. *Corresponding author (fsantiba@uchile.cl).