Large, precision weighing lysimeters are expensive but invaluable tools for measuring crop evapotranspiration and developing crop coefficients. Crop coefficients are used by both growers and researchers to estimate crop water use and accurately schedule irrigations. Two lysimeters of this type were installed in 2002 in central California to determine daily rates of crop and potential (grass) evapotranspiration and develop crop coefficients for better irrigation management of vegetable crops. From 2002 to 2006, the crop lysimeter was planted with broccoli, iceberg lettuce, bell pepper, and garlic. Basal crop coefficients, Kcb, defined as the ratio of crop to potential evapotranspiration when the soil surface is dry but transpiration in unlimited by soil water conditions, increased as a linear or quadratic function of the percentage of ground covered by vegetation. At midseason, when groundcover was greater than 70% to 90%, Kcb was ≈1.0 in broccoli, 0.95 in lettuce, and 1.1 in pepper, and Kcb of each remained the same until harvest. Garlic Kcb, in comparison, increased to 1.0 by the time the crop reached 80% ground cover, but with only 7% of additional coverage, Kcb continued to increase to 1.3, until irrigation was stopped to dry the crop for harvest. Three weeks after irrigation was cutoff, garlic Kcb declined rapidly to a value of 0.16 by harvest. Yields of each crop equaled or exceeded commercial averages for California with much less water in some cases than typically applied. The new crop coefficients will facilitate irrigation scheduling in the crops and help to achieve full yield potential without overirrigation.
The influence of irrigation frequency and the severity and rate of development of soil water deficits on the vegetative growth and water status of carrots (Daucus carota L. var. sativa DC.) grown for seed were investigated in a fine sandy loam soil. Beginning with the period of rapid development of primary umbels, various irrigation frequencies [daily vs. intervals corresponding to 30 mm of accumulated crop evapotranspiration (ETc)] were investigated at irrigation rates ranging from 40% to 120% of estimated ETC. The magnitude and rate of development of soil water deficits markedly influenced carrot responses to developing water deficits. Stomata] conductance and leaf water potential (LWP) measurements exhibited some potential for use in irrigation scheduling and were the most sensitive and consistent indicators of plant water status. Under low-frequency continuous-deficit irrigation, a combination of moderate reductions in stomatal conductance and major reductions in peak leaf area and late-season maintenance of viable leaf area occurred. These responses were effective water-conserving mechanisms, allowing growth at a reduced rate and continued development of viable seed. In contrast, rapid development of soil water deficits resulted in nearly complete stomatal closure, cessation of growth, and rapid reductions in leaf area.
Seed yield and quality of carrot (Daucus carota var. sativa DC.) were influenced by a wide range of water application regimes and levels. Irrigation treatments were imposed beginning at the time of extension of the primary umbel and extending throughout the reproductive development period. The three application regimes used were: 1) a high-frequency, low water deficit treatment [100% of daily accumulated crop evapotranspiration (ETc)]; 2) a series of five low-frequency (irrigated after 30 mm of accumulated ET,) application treatments with a range of water deficits from moderate to minimal (40% to 120% of ETc applied); and 3) a series of three treatments that had rapidly developing water deficits applied by terminating irrigation at 7, 5, and 2 weeks before harvest after being grown under low-stress conditions. Pure live seed (PLS) yield was optimized by different treatments within each of the three application regimes. Maximum yields were achieved with short-term (2-week) rapidly developing water deficits near harvest, moderate deficit irrigation with 60% to 80% of ETc applied after 30 mm of ETc, or with a low water deficit, high-frequency application. Seed germination percentage decreased as the amount of applied water increased. This effect was more pronounced in the later-developing umbel orders. However, seed quality measured as seedling root length was improved with increasing water application.
A 3-year study was conducted in central California to compare the effects of furrow, microjet, surface drip, and sub surface drip irrigation on vegetative growth and early production of newly planted `Crimson Lady' peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] trees. Furrow treatments were irrigated every 7, 14, or 21 days; microjet treatments were irrigated every 2-3, 7, or 14 days; and surface and subsurface drip (with one, two, or three buried laterals per row) treatments were irrigated when accumulated crop evapotranspiration reached 2.5 mm. The overall performance showed that trees irrigated by surface and subsurface drip were significantly larger, produced higher yields, and had higher water use efficiency than trees irrigated by microjets. In fact, more than twice as much water had to be applied to trees with microjets than to trees with drip systems in order to achieve the same amount of vegetative growth and yield. Yield and water use efficiency were also higher under surface and subsurface drip irrigation than under furrow irrigation, although tree size was similar among the treatments. Little difference was found between trees irrigated by surface and subsurface drip, except that trees irrigated with only one subsurface drip lateral were less vigorous, but not less productive, than trees irrigated by one surface drip lateral, or by two or three subsurface drip laterals. Within furrow and microjet treatments, irrigation frequency had little effect on tree development and performance with the exception that furrow irrigation every 3 weeks produced smaller trees than furrow irrigation every 1 or 2 weeks.