The unheated solar greenhouse industry has been expanding rapidly and becoming increasingly important for local economies in the arid region of northwest China in recent years, because the region has abundant light resources but limited precipitation (rain and snow) in winter. However, shortage of water resources and N stress (too little or too much) often affects the sustainable production of greenhouse crops in the region. Water and N stresses not only affect water uptake and nutrient assimilation of plants, but also influence stomatal response and drought resistance ability (Chapin et al., 1988; Claussen, 2002; Davies and Zhang, 1991). Thus, accurate measurement of crop water use under different water and N conditions can provide information for precision irrigation and N management.
Water deficit has an adverse effect on transpiration, which has been confirmed in sap flow studies for many woody tree species such as olive [Olea europaea (Fernández et al., 2001; Tognetti et al., 2004)], pear–jujube [Ziziphus jujuba (Ma et al., 2007)], lemon [Citrus ×limon (Ortuño et al., 2005, 2006)], and peach [Prunus persica (Gong et al., 2001)]. A limited number of studies have been conducted to test the effect of water deficit on sap flow of tomato plants. Yang et al. (2012) showed that sap flow of tomato was seriously reduced by a severe water deficit treatment at the flowering and fruit set stages, and the diurnal variation of tomato sap flow in sunny days followed a bimodal curve under normal irrigation and mild water deficit treatments. A reduction in sap flow that was observed for tomato 2 or 3 d after water stress was imposed became more significant over time (Grey, 2010; Vermeulen et al., 2007).
Contradictory results concerning the effect of N on sap flow have been observed for different plant species, and it is likely that soil water status may interactively influence the effect of N on sap flow. Zhang et al. (2009) found that stem sap flow of peach seedling was higher at the higher N application rate under higher water application treatment, but lower stem sap flow was observed at the higher N application rate if plants suffered water deficit. In a shrub (Ligustrum ovalifolium), the cumulative xylem sap flow with low N application rate was higher than those with high N application rate (Guérin et al., 2007). Guak et al. (2003) observed that there was no significant effect of N treatment on daily sap flow in apple (Malus ×domestica) trees when soil water content was sufficient.
Therefore, there has been a limited number of studies conducted to assess the effect of water and N deficit on plant sap flow. No study has been conducted to assess the effect of water and N treatments on stem sap flow of greenhouse-grown tomatoes in an arid region such as northwest China. In addition, nighttime transpiration, which accounted for a significant proportion of the total daily transpiration and lowered the crop water productivity, has been observed in many C3 and C4 species (Caird et al., 2007a, 2007b; Medrano et al., 2005; Snyder et al., 2003; Yoo et al., 2009). However, little information was available for tomato under different water and N treatments. The objectives of this study are to 1) evaluate the response of stem sap flow of tomato to water deficit in a solar greenhouse; 2) assess the effect of N stress (exceed or deficit) on stem sap flow; and 3) analyze the relationship between stem sap flow and meteorological parameters under different water and N treatments.
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