Irrigation and Rootstocks Affect Water Use, Growth, Nutrition, Yield, and Fruit Quality of `Fuji' and `Gala' Apples

in HortScience

Many fruit growers in the Pacific Northwest region prefer to use a sprinkler system to produce high-quality fruit and to establish a cover crop in the orchard. However, water shortage mandates the use of more efficient methods of irrigation, such as drip. In this long-term experiment, the effects of seven irrigation systems for `Fuji' and two irrigation systems for `Gala' on five rootstocks on tree growth, water use, fruit quality, and mineral nutrients were studied. All forms of drip systems used less water than full micro-sprinkler (SP). Partial root drying sprinkler (PS) used 50% less water than SP. Trees with partial root drying drip and deficit drip had to receive 65% of full drip to survive. Each `Fuji' tree with SP used about 5397 L of water in 2004 and 5833 L in 2005, while each tree with full drip used 2403 L in 2004 and 3438 L in 2005. Thus, trees with full drip used 41% to 55% less water than those with SP system without any reduction in fruit quality. This leads to a major savings in the cost of fruit production. Fruit weight in trees with full drip was always greater than those with PS or deficit drip. Fruits with SP system had lower soluble solids than those with PS. Fruits from trees with partial drip had a higher starch degradation than those with other systems. Leaf minerals, particularly N and K, were affected by irrigation systems. `Pacific Gala' trees on B.9 rootstock were more precocious than those on Supporter-4 rootstock. In general, `Pacific Gala' on RN-29 had better tree performance and fruit quality than those on other rootstocks. The calculation of water requirements on a tree-use basis provided an excellent guide for drip irrigation.

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