In Situ Soil-water Characteristic Curves for Tropical Fruit Orchards in Trenched Calcareous Soil

in HortTechnology

Most tropical fruit trees in southern Florida are grown in calcareous gravelly soil that is mechanically trenched to a depth of about 50 cm (about 20 inches). Fruit trees are often planted at the intersections of perpendicular trenches to provide space for root development. Tree root systems are concentrated in the top 10 to 20 cm (about 4 to 8 inches) of soil. Extreme soil rockiness has made it difficult to obtain consistent and reliable measurements of soil water status and to collect soil samples for constructing soil-water characteristic curves in the laboratory. Multisensor capacitance probes andlow-tension [0 to 40 kPa (centibars) (0 to 5.8 lb/inch2)] tensiometers were installed adjacent to star fruit (Averrhoa carambola L.) and avocado (Persea americana Mill.) trees in trenches to simultaneously measure volumetric soil water content and soil matric potential in situ. Capacitance probes consisted of four sensors centered at depths of 10, 20, 30, and 50 cm (3.9, 7.9, 11.8, and 19.7 inches). Tensiometers were installed at 10- and 30-cm depths, adjacent to the 10- and 30-cm deep capacitance sensors. Measurements obtained with both instruments were used to generate in situ soil-water characteristic curves. Rock fragments were more abundant at 30 cm than at 10 cm (71% to 73% versus 26% to 38% of bulk soil volume, respectively) soil depth, which limited the precision of tensiometers at the greater depth. In situ soil water characteristic curves for the 10-cm soil depth can be used to determine parameters needed for irrigation scheduling by techniques such as the water budget method.

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