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Jordi Marsal and Joan Girona

Relationships between midday (Ψmd) and predawn (Ψpd) leaf water potential, stomatal conductance (gs), and net CO2 assimilation rate (A) were determined at different fruit growth stages and for 2 years with different fruit loads in a `Sudanell' peach [Prunus persica (L) Batsch] plot subjected to two regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) strategies plus a control irrigation treatment. A postharvest RDI (PRDI) treatment was irrigated at 0.35 of the control after harvest. The second treatment (SPRDI) applied RDI during Stage II, the lag phase of the fruit growth curve, at 0.5 of the control and postharvest at 0.35 of the control. The control treatment and the PRDI and SPRDI when not receiving RDI were irrigated at 100% of a modified Penman crop water use calculation (ETo) in 1994, a full crop year, and 80% in 1995, a year of nearly zero crop. In 1995, with 80% of the 1994 irrigation rate and no crop, the Ψmd was higher, probably because of the lower crop load, while Ψpd was lower, probably because less water was applied to the soil. The relationship of gs and A with Ψmd during Stage II was steeper than during postharvest. Low Ψmd was not indicative of a depression in gs and A in Stage III. Osmotic leaf water potential at turgor loss (Ψπ 0) as derived from pressure-volume curves was more negative during Stage III and postharvest (about -2.9 MPa) than in Stage II (about -2.7 MPa). The Ψmd measurements together with Ψπ 0 determinations seemed to be more useful to characterize peach tree water status than Ψpd under soil water deficits because of their better relationship to midday stomatal closure.

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Jordi Marsal, Joan Girona and Mercè Mata

The influence of deficit irrigation on predawn leaf water potential (Ψpd) and leaf gas-exchange parameters was analyzed in almond [Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A. Webb] and compared to hazelnut (Corylus avellana L.). Both species were planted in adjacent plots in which four irrigation treatments were applied: T-100%, T-130%, and T-70%, which were irrigated at full crop evapotranspiration (ETc), 1.3 × ETc, and 0.7 × ETc, respectively, and a regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) treatment, which consisted of full irrigation for the full season, except from middle June to late August when 0.2 × ETc was applied. Under nonstressful conditions, hazelnut had a lower net CO2 assimilation rate (A) (12.2 μmol·m-2·s-1) than almond (15.5 μmol·m-2·s-1). Reductions in net CO2 assimilation rate (A) induced by decreases in Ψpd were higher in hazelnut than in almond. Gas-exchange activity from early morning to midday decreased in hazelnut for all irrigation treatments, but in almond increased in the well-watered treatments and decreased slightly or remained constant in the RDI. Hazelnut had a higher A sensitivity to variations in stomatal conductance (gs) than almond, especially at low gs values. The Ψpd values in almond and hazelnut of the T-100% and T-130% treatments were affected by decreasing values in midsummer, but in hazelnut Ψpd was probably also affected by sink kernel filling. These facts indicate that hazelnut RDI management could be more problematic than in almond.

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Gerardo Lopez, M. Hossein Behboudian, Gemma Echeverria, Joan Girona and Jordi Marsal

The dwindling water supply, on a global scale, is making deficit irrigation (DI) more a necessity than a choice. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the effects of DI on fruit quality. Only instrumental evaluation of quality has been reported in the literature and, to the best of our knowledge, no sensory evaluation has been reported for any DI fruit including peach (Prunus persica). We applied four irrigation treatments for 50 days before harvest to ‘Ryan's Sun’ peach and evaluated fruit quality and sensory attributes. Treatments were: full irrigation (FI), no irrigation (NI), FI followed by NI (FI/NI), and NI followed by FI (NI/FI). NI reduced fruit size, delayed fruit maturity, and increased fruit dry matter concentration (DMC) compared with FI. NI also increased fruit soluble solids concentration (SSC) and titratable acidity (TA). A trained taste panel indicated that NI increased fruit firmness, crispness, and sourness, but it reduced sweetness, juiciness, and the intensity of peach flavor. A panel of consumers indicated reduced preference for NI fruit. Consumer preference was similar between NI/FI and FI fruit but was reduced in FI/NI fruit. There were no significant correlations between the instrumental quality parameters and sensory attributes. We conclude that NI before harvest impaired organoleptic peach quality. If only a small amount of water is available during the 50 days before harvest, peach organoleptic quality could be improved if this water is applied just before harvest.

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Joan Girona, Mercè Mata, Amadeu Arbonès, Simó Alegre, Josep Rufat and Jordi Marsal

Productive and vegetative tree responses were analyzed during 3 consecutive years in peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch cv. Sudanell] plots subjected to three regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) strategies plus a control irrigation treatment. A postharvest RDI treatment (RDI-P) was irrigated at 0.35 of control after harvest. A Stage II RDI treatment (RDI-SII) was irrigated at 0.5 of control during the lag phase of the fruit growth curve. The third treatment (RDI-SII-P) applied RDI during Stage II at 0.5 of control and postharvest at 0.35 of control. The control treatment, like RDI-P and RDI-SII-P when not receiving RDI, was irrigated at 100% of a water budget irrigation scheduling in 1994 and 1996, full crop years, and 80% of the budget in 1995, an off year with a very small crop. A carry-over effect of deficit irrigation was highly significant in all parameters measured during the third year of the experiment. The general effect of water stress during Stage II did not affect return bloom and fruit set, whereas water stress during postharvest apparently reduced both parameters. As a consequence, fruit counts and fruit load manifested marked differences between treatments, which were also correlated to changes in fruit size. The RDI-II, which had the highest fruit yield, also had the smallest fruit size, whereas RDI-P manifested the lowest yield and largest fruit size. Vegetative growth (shoot elongation and trunk cross sectional area) was significantly reduced during the first 2 years of the experiment in accordance with the amount of the irrigation reduction. However, in 1996 growth was strongly governed by fruit load. The use of RDI-SII-P represented an intermediate cropping effect between the opposite bearing behavior of RDI-SII and RDI-P, while not expecting distinctive fruit yield or size reductions and offering remarkable water savings of 22% of the control applied water.

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Xavier Vallverdu, Joan Girona, Gemma Echeverria, Jordi Marsal, M. Hossein Behboudian and Gerardo Lopez

Deficit irrigation (DI) applied during Stage II of fruit development has the potential of improving fruit quality in peach (Prunus persica). Existing information only covers instrumental assessment of quality. No report is available on how sensory attributes and consumer acceptance are affected. We applied DI at Stage II to ‘Tardibelle’ peach and evaluated fruit composition, sensory attributes, and consumer acceptance during the growing seasons of 2009 and 2010. Results were compared with those from trees that received conventional irrigation (CI). Stem water potential in DI trees was indicative of a moderate water stress during Stage II. In 2010, water stress persisted at the beginning of Stage III and average fruit weight was reduced in DI trees. A panel of trained judges decided that DI increased sweetness, juiciness, and the intensity of peach flavor but it reduced fruit firmness and crispness. A panel of consumers indicated increased preference for DI fruit. The higher appeal for DI fruit could have been partially the result of their more advanced maturity. Improvement of fruit quality could be an important incentive for the application of DI during Stage II because growers may expect to receive a premium price for their higher quality fruit.