Deficit Irrigation during Fruit Set Influences Fruit Number of Watermelons

in HortScience
Authors:
D.I. Leskovar1Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas A&M Univ., Uvalde, TX 78801

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J.C. Ward1Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas A&M Univ., Uvalde, TX 78801

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A. Meiri2The Inst. of Soil and Water, The Volcani Center, ARO, Israel

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Reductions in the supply of high-quality irrigation water from underground aquifers is affecting production and irrigation management in the Winter Garden of southwestern Texas. This study was conducted to determine how growth, yield, and quality of watermelons [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] grown with subsurface drip are affected by synchronizing irrigation with specific growth stages. In 1995 irrigation rates were: 1.0 evapotranspiration (ET) throughout the entire growth period (T1); 1.0ET until fruit set followed by 0.6ET until final harvest (T2); 1.0ET until fruit set followed by 0.6ET until first fruit maturity followed by 0.4ET until final harvest (T3); 1.0ET until fruit set followed by 0.6ET until first fruit maturity followed by 0.2ET until final harvest (T4). In 1996, two irrigation rates were constant 1.0ET (T1) and 0.5ET (T4), and two with varying ET rates throughout the entire growth period. Varying irrigation rates with specific growth stages had more influence on fruit set and early yield than on leaf and vine growth. Total marketable fruit yield ranged from 94.4 to 71.8 Mg·ha–1 when 569 mm (T1) and 371 mm (T4) of irrigation water, respectively, were applied in Spring 1995, and from 90.3 to 80.9 Mg·ha–1 when 881 mm (T1) and 577 mm (T4) of irrigation water, respectively, were applied in Spring 1996. However, plants irrigated with constant 0.5ET demonstrated greater water use efficiency than those with 1.0ET. Information on water use will assist farmers in designing management strategies that minimize risks due to uncertainties in weather and water supplies.

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