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  • Author or Editor: Rafael Muñoz-Carpena x
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A low-volume/high frequency (LVHF) soil moisture-based drip irrigation system was tested on a shallow sandy soil at a commercial tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) farm in southern Florida. Six LVHF irrigation treatments were compared with the standard commercial practice on the farm (control), where a portable pump was used for manual drip irrigation twice each week. In the six LVHF treatments the system was continuously pressurized by means of an electrical pump and a pressure tank, and controlled by an irrigation timer set to irrigate a maximum of five times per day with the irrigation time (i.e., volume) set according to historical evapotranspiration (ET) demands in the area. Two treatments were based on timer schedules, one to supply 100% of the maximum recommended crop water needs in the area based on historical ET (ET-100%), and the other to supply 150% of those needs (ET-150%). The other four treatments were created by interfacing two types of soil moisture sensors (switching tensiometers and granular matrix sensors with control modules) set at two moisture points (wet = 10 kPa, optimal = 15 kPa) in a closed control loop with the irrigation timer programmed at the ET-100% schedule. Results showed that the six LVHF treatments reduced water use while not significantly affecting tomato yields. Switching tensiometers at the 15 kPa set point performed the best (up to 73% reduction in water use when compared to the control, 50% with respect to ET-100%). The results show that water use below historical ET levels can be obtained without sacrificing yield by keeping the root zone moisture at controlled levels with the soil-moisture based system. Routine maintenance was critical for reliable operation of the switching tensiometers. Granular matrix sensor based irrigation behaved erratically, and did not improve water savings compared to ET-100%, indicating that this system was not effective under the conditions of the area due to the sensor's slow response to frequent wetting-rewetting cycles and characteristics of the interface.

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Several practices have been adopted to minimize water use and potential N leaching of vegetable production systems, including use of drip irrigation, plastic mulch, and fertigation. However, these practices may not be adequate on sandy soils with poor water and nutrient retention capacities. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the interactive effects of irrigation practices and fertilizer rates on yield, fertilizer requirements, and N-leaching of pepper and tomato production systems. Bell pepper and tomato were planted on plastic mulched to evaluate the effects of three nitrogen (N) fertilizer rates (154, 192, 288 kg·ha -1 N for pepper vs. 166, 208, and 312 kg·ha-1 N for tomato) and three irrigation scheduling methods were evaluated. Depending on sensor readings, soil moisture sensor (SMS) irrigation treatments allowed up to five watering events per day where as for the fixed duration treatment irrigation was applied once a day. For tomato, the effect of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) was also evaluated. Compared to TIME, use of SMS control system reduced water use by 29& to 44% and 37% to 66% for tomato and pepper, respectively. Tomato yield was significantly higher on SMS and SDI treatments compared to TIME treatments. For pepper yield and biomass accumulation were not affected by irrigation treatments. The average yields were 24.6 and 27.8 Mg·ha-1 of fresh marketable fruits for pepper and tomato, respectively. Nitrogen rate did not affect yield and optimal yield N rate did not affect yield for either crop. On average, SMS treatments increased irrigation water use efficiency 2–3 times compared to TIME treatments for both tomato and pepper.

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Grapefruit are well-adapted to arid and warm climatic conditions, but well-irrigated trees usually produce better-quality fruits. Because water is a major component of the fruits, there is a strong relationship between drought stress and fruits quality traits such as fruits size, external fruits color, and juice quality. The object of this study was to develop a computer model to predict postharvest external grapefruit color as a function of drought stress. During model development, drought stress was quantified using a concise water balance model based on crop evapotranspiration, precipitation, and irrigation. Data collected from Murcia, Spain, during the 2007 and 2008 growing seasons were used for model development, and the model was optimized by comparing model predictions and observations for each growing season. The root mean square error and Nash and Sutcliffe coefficient of efficiency (NSE) were used to evaluate model performance. Then, the model was evaluated with independent data collected from Florida during the 2005–06 growing season. A second-order polynomial relationship was found between external fruits color and drought stress, with less drought stress resulting in better external fruits color. Model optimization revealed good model performance for predicting external fruits color in Murcia, with NSE values of 0.975 and 0.979 for the 2007 and 2008 growing seasons, respectively. Model evaluation with the data from Florida showed that model predictions were reliable, with a NSE value of 0.984. A robust model to predict external grapefruit color as affected by drought stress was developed during the present study and could be potentially applied to supply information for suitable irrigation management of various grapefruit cultivars grown under different climatic conditions. Model performance could be confirmed by future research with data collection during further multiple seasons for different cultivars and a range of climatic conditions.

Open Access