The cultivated cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) is a perennial plant native from North America (Eck, 1990). Its productivity is maximized when soil water potential in the root zone (at ≈10-cm depth) is maintained between −3.0 and −7.5 kPa (Caron et al., 2016; Laurent, 2015; Pelletier et al., 2013), and growers can use overhead irrigation to avoid water stress when the lower threshold is reached. Most of the cranberry beds are equipped with drain tiles for removing excess water after rainfall or sprinkler frost protection, but drainage systems can also be used for subirrigation where the water table depth is controlled by adding water in drain tiles. Historically, cranberries were grown under wet conditions with shallow water tables around 23–38 cm below the ground surface (Eck, 1990), but there is evidence that higher yields can be attained when the water table is ≈60 cm deep (Pelletier et al., 2015). Although drainage problems could induce significant yield limitation (Baumann et al., 2005), the time to remove the excess of water greatly depends on the water table depth before rainfall (Pelletier et al., 2015). Recent improvements in water management and the outcome of efforts at promoting the benefits of drier soil conditions could explain in part the yield increases observed in recent years in the province of Québec (Canada). Indeed, the average yield in conventional production systems increased by 38% over the last decade (from 24,000 kg·ha−1 in 2004 to 33,000 kg·ha−1 in 2014) (APCQ, 2015).
A decline in photosynthesis is one of the first physiological responses to soil waterlogging (Liao and Lin, 2001). Poor aeration in the root zone generally leads to a reduction in root cellular respiration and permeability, followed by a decline in water absorption (Bhattarai et al., 2005). Stomata then close gradually, transpiration is reduced, and carbohydrate translocation from leaves to roots is inhibited (Liao and Lin, 2001). The extension of root axes can be severely reduced as a result of ethylene production under anaerobic conditions resulting in injury to the plant (Smith and Restall, 1971). It has been shown in many crops, such as blueberries (Davies and Flore, 1986a), cherries (Beckman et al., 1992), and sunflowers (Grassini et al., 2007), that leaf gas exchange is affected by the lack of oxygen in the rhizosphere. Depending on the growth stage at which soil waterlogging occurs, such reduction in CO2 assimilation may reduce the number of fruiting uprights, number of flowers, fruit set, and fruit size (Kozlowski, 1997). Hence, lower carbon assimilation under saturated soil conditions could reduce plant growth and lead to significant yield loss. The magnitude of these impacts will depend on the time required to recover and return to preflooding values when waterlogging ends. However, although the reduction in plant gas exchange under soil waterlogging and the recovery time are species dependent (Kozlowski, 1997), little is known about these relationships in cranberry production—yet essential to improve the design of drainage systems and avoid yield limitations caused by inadequate drainage. Therefore, the objectives of the present study were to determine the effect of soil waterlogging duration on cranberry gas exchange and to investigate the recovery time after removing the excess water.
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