Deficit Irrigation and Plant Population Effects on Leaf Quality and Yield of Spinach

in HortScience

A two-year experiment was conducted to determine yield, water use efficiency, and leaf quality responses to deficit irrigation and plant population of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). Three irrigation regimes were imposed with a center pivot system, 100%, 75%, and 50% crop evapotranspiration rates (ETc). Spinach seeds were planted on 11 Nov. 2003 at three plant populations: 494 (P-1), 618 (P-2), and 741 (P-3) thousand seeds/ha on cvs. DMC 16 and ASR 157, and on 15 Oct. 2004 at four plant populations: 655, 815, 988, and 1149 thousand seeds/ha on cv. DMC 16. Harvests were done on 3 Mar. 2004 and 26 Jan. 2005. In the first season, marketable yield was not reduced by deficit irrigation, but water use efficiency was significantly higher for 50% ETc compared to 100% ETc. The cv. DMC 16 had a significantly lower percentage of stem weight than ASR 157 (8.3 vs. 16.4%). The cv. ASR 157 had an excess of stem weight at 100% and 75% ETc compared to 50% ETc at P-1, but similar at P-2 and P-3. The cv. DMC 16 had a trend of reduced stem weight for P3 at 50% ETc. In the second season, marketable yield was reduced by deficit irrigation. However, water use efficiency was significantly higher for 50% ETc compared to 100% ETc, but similar to 75% ETc. Deficit irrigation also decreased the percentage of stem weight. Despite a slight increase in the percentage of of yellow leaves, but not in percentage of of stem weight, marketable yield and water use efficiency were significantly higher at 1149 thousand seeds/ha. This study showed that deficit irrigation in combination with increased plant population has the potential to increase yield and water savings, without adversely affecting leaf quality.

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