Irrigation Schedules and Annual Ryegrass as a Ground Cover to Conserve Water and Control Peach Tree Growth

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078

Irrigation schedules were evaluated on `Cresthaven' peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.] to determine if water application could he reduced or omitted without affecting fruit size or yield. Tensiometers were used to schedule trickle irrigation during 1984-M. Treatments were no irrigation or irrigation when soil pressure potential at a 30-cm depth reached 40 or 60 kPa, respectively. When production began in 1986, trees were either irrigated until harvest (1-7 Aug.) or until October. Beginning in 1989, class A pan evaporation was used to schedule irrigation by replacing 60% of evaporation. Trees were irrigated from budbreak to harvest or October, from beginning of stage III fruit growth until harvest or October, or trees were not irrigated. The irrigation treatments were in factorial combination using sod middles, with annual ryegrass (Lolium multiforum Lam.) seeded under the trees or a sod-herbicide strip. The ryegrass was seeded in October, then killed at the onset of stage III fruit growth. Water application was reduced 32% to 57% when irrigation was discontinued after harvest compared to irrigation until October. Irrigation before stage III fruit growth did not affect fruit yield, size, or pruning weights compared to trees irrigated at the onset of stage III fruit growth. Trunk size was increased by irrigation; however, there were no differences in trunk size among irrigation treatments. Irrigation occasionally increased fruit size and yield compared to no irrigation. There were few differences in flower bud density, fruit set, yield, or fruit size among trees with reduced irrigation schedules compared to trees receiving irrigation from budbreak until October. Annual ryegrass decreased shoot growth in 1990 and flower bud density in 1991; however, fruit set was not affected. Annual ryegrass depleted excess soil moisture during the spring in some years, then conserved soil moisture after it was killed. Using sod with annual ryegrass under the trees may be a viable alternative to management with sodherbicide strips.

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