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Rashid Al-Yahyai*, Bruce Schaffer and Frederick S. Davies

The effect of soil water depletion on plant water potential and leaf gas exchange of carambola (Averrhoa carambola L. cv. Arkin) in Krome very gravelly loam soil was studied in an orchard and in containers in the field and in a greenhouse. The rate of soil water depletion was determined by continuously monitoring soil water content with multi-sensor capacitance probes. Stem water potential and leaf gas exchange of carambola in containers were reduced when the soil water depletion level fell below 50% (where field capacity = 100%). Although there was a decrease in the rate of soil water depletion in the orchard as the soil dried, soil water depletion did not go below an average of 70%. This was presumably due to sufficient rainfall and capillary movement of water in the soil. Therefore, soil water content did not decline sufficiently to affect leaf gas exchange and leaf and stem water potential of orchard trees. A decline in soil water depletion below 40% resulted in a concomitant decline in stem water potential of the container trees in the field and greenhouse to below -1.0 MPa. Stomatal conductance, net CO2 assimilation, and transpiration declined significantly when stem water potential was below -1.0 MPa. The reduction of net CO2 assimilation and transpiration was proportional to the decline in stomatal conductance of container trees in the field and greenhouse. Thus, soil water depletion in Krome very gravelly loam soil must be less than 50% before water potential or leaf gas exchange of carambola is affected. Based on these results, irrigation scheduling should be based on physiological variables such as stem water potential and stomatal conductance or the amount rather than the rate of soil water depletion.

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Rashid Al-Yahyai, Bruce Schaffer and Frederick S. Davies

Two-year-old `Arkin' carambola (Averrhoa carambola L.) trees were grown in containers in a greenhouse and the field in a very gravelly loam soil. Trees in the field were subjected to four soil water depletion (SWD) levels which averaged, 10.5%, 26.5%, 41.0%, and 55.5% and trees in the greenhouse were maintained at field capacity or dried continuously to produce a range of SWD levels. The relationships between SWD and leaf (ΨL) and stem (Ψs) water potential, net CO2 assimilation (ACO2), stomatal conductance of water (gs) and transpiration (E) were determined. Coefficients of determination values between physiological variables were higher for trees in the greenhouse than in the field, which may have been due to greater fluctuations in vapor pressure deficit (VPD) in the field. Soil water depletion levels above 50% caused a reduction in Ψs that subsequently decreased gs. This reduction in Ψs was correlated with a linear reduction in E and a considerable decline in ACO2 when gs fell below about 50 mmol·m–2 ·s–1. Leaf gas exchange parameters were better correlated with Ψs than with SWD level. Therefore, Ψs may be a better predictor of carambola tree water status than SWD in a well-drained, very gravelly loam soil.

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Rashid Al-Yahyai, Bruce Schaffer, Jonathan H. Crane and Frederick S. Davies

Phenological cycles were determined for carambola (Averrhoa carambola) trees in a gravelly loam soil at four different soil water depletion (SWD) levels in containers and in an orchard in southern Florida. The phenological cycles of young trees grown in containers were not as well defined as those of mature trees in an orchard. Shoot extension of trees in the orchard and containers was observed from the first week of March until the third week of December. Two peak flowering periods occurred during the first week of March, and from mid-September to mid-October. The major fruit harvest periods were August and December. Shoot flushing, extension shoot growth, flowering, and fruiting showed little response to irrigation at four SWD levels. This lack of response was likely caused by sufficient soil water due to precipitation and capillary rise from the high water table located about 1–2 m below the soil surface. Regardless of the lack of SWD effects on phenological cycles of carambola, the periodicity of shoot flushing, extension shoot growth, flowering, and fruiting and the intensity of these phenological events elucidated in this study should provide useful guidelines for carambola orchard management in southern Florida.