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J.P. Mitchell, C. Shennan, D. Peters and R.O. Miller

Sustainable alternatives for saline drainage water management in areas such as California's San Joaquin Valley are needed. Previous work has demonstrated the short-term potential for reuse of saline drainage water for irrigation in this area. Results from our 6-year cyclic drainage reuse study, however, indicate that soil structural problems may occur which can greatly reduce stand establishment and crop yields in periodically salinized soils. To prevent these problems, we are evaluating the effectiveness of winter cover crop incorporation and gypsum applications relative to conventional fallows, for improving/maintaining soil physical properties and crop productivity in cyclically salinized soils. Six winter cover crop/fallow treatments have been imposed upon a rotation of tomatoes, tomatoes and cotton as summer crops. By monitoring water use, relevant soil physical and chemical properties as well as crop performance during the course of this 3-year rotation study, we are assessing the potential benefits and constraints of using winter cover crops in drainage water reuse systems.

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J.P. Mitchell, D.M. May and C. Shennan

Field studies were conducted in 1992 and 1993 to assess the effects of irrigation with saline drainage water on processing-tomato fruit yields and quality constituents. Saline water (ECiw = 7 dS/m) was used for 66% of the seasonal irrigation requirements in 1992 and 82% in 1993. Yields of tomatoes irrigated with saline water were maintained relative to nonsaline irrigation in 1992, but were decreased by 33% in 1993. Juice Brix and Bostwick consistency were generally improved by irrigation with saline water. pH was unaffected by irrigation treatment, and titratable acidity, an estimate of citric acid content, was increased only in 1993. Calculated quantities for various marketable processed product yields reflect the dominant influence of fresh fruit yield that masked, to a large extent, whatever quality enhancements that may have derived from saline irrigation. The substantial tomato yield reduction that occurred in the second year of this study in plots irrigated with saline drainage water, the gradual surface accumulation of boron, as well as the significant salt buildup in lower portions of the crop root zone following drainage water irrigations demonstrate definitive limitations to the reuse approach and restrict options for the crops that can be grown in this system and the frequency of saline drainage reuse.

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A.M. Boland, P.H. Jerie, P.D. Mitchell, I. Goodwin and D.J. Connor

Individual and interactive effects of restricted root volume (RRV) and regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) on vegetative growth and mineral nutrition of peach trees [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch (Peach Group) `Golden Queen'] were studied over 3 years (1992-95). Trees were grown in lysimeters of five different volumes (0.025, 0.06, 0.15, 0.4, and 1.0 m3) with either full or deficit (RDI) irrigation. Increasing soil volume increased vegetative growth as measured by trunk cross-sectional area (TCA) (linear and quadratic, P < 0.011) and tree weight (linear, P < 0.001) with the final TCA ranging from 29.0 to 51.0 cm2 and tree weight ranging from 7.2 to 12.1 kg for the smallest to largest volumes. Root density measured at the completion of the experiment decreased with increasing soil volume (linear and quadratic, P < 0.001) with root length density declining from 24.0 to 2.0 cm·cm-3. RDI reduced vegetative growth by up to 70% as measured by weight of summer prunings. Root restriction was effective in controlling vegetative vigor and is a viable alternative for control of vegetative growth. Mineral nutrition did not limit tree growth.

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A.M. Boland, P.H. Jerie, P.D. Mitchell, I. Goodwin and D.J. Connor

Individual and interactive effects of restricted root volume (RRV) and regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) on productivity and water use of peach trees [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch `Golden Queen'] were studied over 3 years (1992-95). Trees were grown in lysimeters of five different soil volumes (0.025, 0.06, 0.15, 0.4, and 1.0 m3) with either full or deficit (RDI) irrigation. In Years 3 and 4, fruit size was reduced by up to 30% on trees in the two smallest volumes. Tree water use was positively related to increasing soil volume (linear, P < 0.001; quadratic, P < 0.011) in all years ranging from 1.8 to 4.4 L·mm-1 Epan in the post-RDI period of Year 2. Water use of deficit-irrigated trees was less than fully irrigated trees and there was an interaction between soil volume and irrigation treatment during RDI. Water relations did not limit growth or productivity. Tree water use was reduced under root restriction as a consequence of canopy demand rather than leaf function. Results suggest that a combination of restricted root volume and development of water stress achieve the RDI response in the Goulburn Valley, Australia.

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A-M. Boland, P.D. Mitchell, I. Goodwin and P.H. Jerie

An experiment designed to study the effects of different root volumes was installed in Fall 1991. `Golden Queen' peach trees [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.] were planted into different isolated soil volumes (0.025, 0.06, 0.15, 0.4, and 1.0 m3), which were essentially individual drainage lysimeters. Trunk cross-sectional area (TCA) increased from 5.76 to 14.23 cm2 for the smallest and largest volumes, respectively, while leaf area was 4.56 and 21.32 m2 for the respective treatments. Leaf size was not affected by soil volume. Soil volume was positively related to the number of lateral shoots produced, lateral shoot density, and internode length. Total flower bud number and flower bud density were inversely related to soil volume. Fruit set was similar among treatments despite an almost 4-fold difference in tree size. Tree water use (liters·mm-1 pan evaporation) increased with soil volume; however, when adjusted for tree size (tree water use per TCA), there were no consistent differences between treatments for tree water use over the season. These results suggest that trees planted in the smaller soil volumes were more efficient reproductively per unit of tree size and would be easier to manage in an ultra-high-density planting.

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D.W. Peters, J.P. Mitchell, R.E. Plant and B.R. Hanson

Current methods of making crop cover estimates are time-consuming and tend to be highly variable. A low-cost, digital, red/near-infrared band ratioing camera (Dycam Inc., Chatsworth, Calif.) and accompanying software (S. Heinold, Woodland Hills, Calif.) were evaluated for estimating crop cover. The camera was tested using a set of images having leaf areas of known sizes with different crop, soil, and lighting conditions. In the field, camera-based crop cover estimates were compared to light bar measured estimates. Results indicate that the camera and image analysis software are capable of estimating percent crop cover over a range of soil, crop, and lighting environments. Camera-based crop cover estimates were highly correlated with light bar estimates (tomato r 2 = 0.96, cotton r 2 = 0.98). Under the conditions tested, the camera appears to be a useful tool for monitoring crop growth in the field.

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J.P. Mitchell, C. Shennan, S.R. Grattan and D.M. May

Effects of deficit irrigation and irrigation with saline drainage water on processing tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill, cv. UC82B) yields, fruit quality, and fruit tissue constituents were investigated in two field experiments. Deficit irrigation reduced fruit water accumulation and fresh fruit yield, but increased fruit soluble solids levels and' led to higher concentrations of hexoses, citric acid, and potassium. Irrigation with saline water had no effect on total fresh fruit yield or hexose concentration, but slightly reduced fruit water content, which contributed to increased inorganic ion concentrations. Fruit set and marketable soluble solids (marketable red fruit yield × percent soluble solids) were generally unaffected by either irrigation practice. Water deficit and salinity increased starch concentration during early fruit development, but, at maturity, concentrations were reduced to < 1%, regardless of treatment. Higher fruit acid concentrations resulted from water deficit irrigation and from irrigation with saline water relative to the control in one year out of two. These results support the contention that deficit irrigation and irrigation with saline drainage water may be feasible crop water management options for producing high quality field-grown processing tomatoes without major yield reductions. Appropriate long-term strategies are needed to deal with the potential hazards of periodic increases in soil salinity associated with use of saline drainage water for irrigation.

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J.P. Mitchell, P.B. Goodell, R. Bader, R. Cifuentes, T.S. Prather, R.L. Coviello and D.M. May

A participatory, on-farm research and extension program has been established around 16 demonstration comparisons of biologically integrated soil building–pest management systems and conventionally managed systems within the West Side row crop area of California's San Joaquin Valley. In each of the biologically integrated parcels, cover crops and composted organic materials are integrated into rotations wherever appropriate, whereas in the conventionally managed parcels, mineral fertilizer applications are made. Pest management practices are evaluated and biologically and informationally intensive alternatives are developed through a participatory process. Indices of soil quality including nutrient status, water stable aggregates, organic matter content, and phospholipid fatty acids are routinely monitored. Information related to the objectives, structure and monitoring activities of this project during the establishment phase will be discussed.

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H.H. Krusekopf, J.P. Mitchell, T.K. Hartz, D.M. May, E.M. Miyao and M.D. Cahn

Overuse of chemical N fertilizers has been linked to nitrate contamination of both surface and ground water. Excessive fertilizer use is also an economic loss to the farmer. Typical N application rates for processing tomato production in California's Central Valley are 150-250 kg·ha-1, and growers generally fail to fully consider the field-specific effects of residual soil NO3-N concentration, or N mineralization potential of the soil. The purpose of this research was to determine the effects of sidedress N fertilizer application, residual soil NO3-N, and in-season N mineralization, on processing tomato yield. Research was conducted during the 1998 and 1999 growing seasons at 16 field sites. Pre-sidedress soil nitrate concentration was determined at each trial site to a depth of 1 m, and aerobic incubation tests were conducted on these soils (top 0.3 m depth) to estimate N mineralization rate. Sidedress fertilizer was applied at six incremental rates from 0 to 280 kg N/ha, with six replications of each treatment per field. Only five fields showed yield response to fertilizer application; yield response to fertilizer was associated with lower pre-sidedress soil nitrate levels. In most fields with fertilizer response, yield was not increased with sidedress N application above 56 kg·ha-1. Mineralization was estimated to contribute an average of ≈60 kg N/ha between sidedressing and harvest. These results suggest that N fertilizer inputs could be reduced substantially below current industry norms without lowering yields, especially in fields with higher residual soil nitrate levels.

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H.H. Krusekopf, J.P. Mitchell, T.K. Hartz, D.M. May, E.M. Miyao and M.D. Cahn

Overuse of chemical N fertilizers has been linked to nitrate contamination of both surface and ground water. Excessive use of fertilizer also is an economic loss to the farmer. Typical N application rates for processing tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) production in California are 150 to 250 kg·ha-1. The contributions of residual soil NO3-N and in-season N mineralization to plant nutrient status are generally not included in fertilizer input calculations, often resulting in overuse of fertilizer. The primary goal of this research was to determine if the pre-sidedress soil nitrate test (PSNT) could identify fields not requiring sidedress N application to achieve maximum tomato yield; a secondary goal was to evaluate tissue N testing currently used for identifying post-sidedress plant N deficiencies. Field experiments were conducted during 1998 and 1999. Pre-sidedress soil nitrate concentrations were determined to a depth of 60 cm at 10 field sites. N mineralization rate was estimated by aerobic incubation test. Sidedress fertilizer was applied at six incremental rates from 0 to 280 kg·ha-1 N, with six replications per field. At harvest, only four fields showed a fruit yield response to fertilizer application. Within the responsive fields, fruit yields were not increased with sidedress N application above 112 kg·ha-1. Yield response to sidedress N did not occur in fields with pre-sidedress soil NO3-N levels >16 mg·kg-1. Soil sample NO3-N levels from 30 cm and 60 cm sampling depth were strongly correlated. Mineralization was estimated to contribute an average of 60 kg·ha-1 N between sidedressing and harvest. Plant tissue NO3-N concentration was found to be most strongly correlated to plant N deficiency at fruit set growth stage. Dry petiole NO3-N was determined to be a more accurate indicator of plant N status than petiole sap NO3-N measured by a nitrate-selective electrode. The results from this study suggested that N fertilizer inputs could be reduced substantially below current industry norms without reducing yields in fields identified by the PSNT as having residual pre-sidedress soil NO3-N levels >16 mg·kg-1 in the top 60 cm.