A partial root zone drying irrigation strategy for citrus-Effects on water use efficiency and fruit characteristics

Ronald Hutton, B. R. Loveys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In Australian irrigated citriculture, fruit yield and quality outcomes are not tightly related to levels of plant available water, which raises the possibility of using mild water stress applied to part of the root zone, i.e. partial root zone drying, to stimulate physiological mechanisms that reduce tree water use by changing the relationship between stomatal conductance and ambient evaporative conditions. The PRD technique alternates irrigation such that one side of the tree root zone is allowed to dry whilst the other side is irrigated. This significantly reduces the wetted soil volume at any point in time, whilst always maintaining a readily available water supply to part of the root zone. By adopting this irrigation strategy water use of mature Navel orange trees C. sinensis (L.) Osbeck was reduced and water use efficiency was increased. The technique did not induce excessive fruitlet drop and crop yield was unaffected. Both fruit size and juice percentage slightly decreased whereas total soluble solids percentage (TSS) and juice acid percentage increased. As water use was reduced and juice quality attributes were increased, this technique has obvious benefits for juice fruit production. PRD offers an advantage over conventional deficit irrigation strategies because it helps reduce water use by separating the biochemical signaling responses to water deficit in the dry part of the root zone from the physical effects of reduced stomatal conductance due to lower water availability, allowing developmental processes associated with plant growth to remain unperturbed. Irrigating a reduced root zone volume in this way reduces crop water requirement. However, it is also important to understand that this technique pushes the crop to its limits and should only be applied to well established healthy trees. When applying PRD irrigation, it is important that water is supplied with sufficient frequency and depth of wetting to meet the water needs of the whole pla
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1485-1496
Number of pages12
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Volume98
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

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