Restrictions placed on water usage for farmers have prompted the development of irrigation management projects aiming at water savings of economically important crops. The objective of this work was to determine yield, water use efficiency, and leaf quality responses to deficit irrigation rates of processing spinach (Spinacea oleracea L.) cultivars. Three irrigation treatments were imposed with a center pivot system, 100%, 75%, and 50% crop evapotranspiration rates (ETc). Commercial cultivars used were `DMC 09', `ASR 157', and `ACX 3665'. Leaf quality was significantly affected by deficit irrigation rate and cultivar. Leaf yellowness was highest at 50% ETc, and was more evident for `ACX 3665'. The percent excess stem (>10 cm) was higher at 100% ETc. This response was greater in `ACX 3665' than in `ASR 157' and `DMC 09'. Marketable yields were significantly higher for `ASR 157' at either 100% or 75% ETc rates, compared to `DMC 09' and `ACX 3665'. High water use efficiency was also measured at 75% ETc for `ASR 157'. Minimum canopy temperature differences were detected among the irrigation treatments. This work demonstrated that it is possible to reach a 25% water savings in one season, without reducing yields when using vigorous cultivars.
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