Two levels of deficit irrigation were applied to mature French prune trees based on gradually declining midday stem water potentials decreasing to –1.5 MPa (moderate stress) and –2.5 MPa (severe stress) by harvest. The moderate and severe stress treatments resulted in 32% and 51% water savings, respectively, compared to the fully irrigated control. The average photosynthetic rate and dry fruit yield for the moderate stress treatment were not significantly lower than those for the fully irrigated control. The severe stress treatment had significantly lower photosynthetic rates from late morning until sunset on most days. However, this lower photosynthetic rate did not result in significantly lower dry fruit yields. There were no significant differences in light interception as measured diurnally or over the course of the season in the first year of the study. However, light interception and photosynthetic differences might be expected to be more pronounced in subsequent years, due to carryover effects.
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