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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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David A. Goldhamer, Elias Fereres, Merce Mata, Joan Girona and Moshe Cohen

To characterize tree responses to water deficits in shallow and deep rooted conditions, parameters developed using daily oscillations from continuously measured soil water content and trunk diameter were compared with traditional discrete monitoring of soil and plant water status in lysimeter and field-grown peach trees [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch `O'Henry']. Evaluation occurred during the imposition of deficit irrigation for 21 days followed by full irrigation for 17 days. The maximum daily available soil water content fluctuations (MXAWCF) taken at any of the four monitored root zone depths responded most rapidly to the deficit irrigation. The depth of the MXAWCF increased with time during the deficit irrigation. Differences relative to a fully irrigated control were greater in the lysimeter than the field-grown trees. Minimum daily trunk diameter (MNTD) and maximum daily trunk shrinkage (MDS) responded sooner than midday stem water potential (stem Ψ), predawn or midday leaf water potential (predawn leaf Ψ and leaf Ψ), or photosynthesis (A). Parameters based on trunk diameter monitoring, including maximum daily trunk diameter (MXTD), correlated well with established physiological parameters of tree water status. Statistical analysis of the differences in the measured parameters relative to fully irrigated trees during the first 10 days of deficit irrigation ranked the sensitivity of the parameters in the lysimeter as MXAWCF > MNTD > MDS > MXTD > stem Ψ = A = predawn leaf Ψ = leaf Ψ. Equivalent analysis with the field-grown trees ranked the sensitivity of the parameters as MXAWCF > MNTD > MDS > stem Ψ = leaf Ψ = MXTD = predawn leaf Ψ > A. Following a return to full irrigation in the lysimeter, MDS and all the discrete measurements except A quickly returned to predeficit irrigation levels. Tree recovery in the field-grown trees was slower and incomplete due to inadequate filling of the root zone. Fruit size was significantly reduced in the lysimeter while being minimally affected in the field-grown trees. Parameters only available from continuous monitoring hold promise for improving the precision of irrigation decision-making over the use of discrete measurements.

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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.