Large, precision weighing lysimeters are expensive but invaluable tools for measuring crop evapotranspiration and developing crop coefficients. Crop coefficients are used by both growers and researchers to estimate crop water use and accurately schedule irrigations. Two lysimeters of this type were installed in 2002 in central California to determine daily rates of crop and potential (grass) evapotranspiration and develop crop coefficients for better irrigation management of vegetable crops. From 2002 to 2006, the crop lysimeter was planted with broccoli, iceberg lettuce, bell pepper, and garlic. Basal crop coefficients, Kcb, defined as the ratio of crop to potential evapotranspiration when the soil surface is dry but transpiration in unlimited by soil water conditions, increased as a linear or quadratic function of the percentage of ground covered by vegetation. At midseason, when groundcover was greater than 70% to 90%, Kcb was ≈1.0 in broccoli, 0.95 in lettuce, and 1.1 in pepper, and Kcb of each remained the same until harvest. Garlic Kcb, in comparison, increased to 1.0 by the time the crop reached 80% ground cover, but with only 7% of additional coverage, Kcb continued to increase to 1.3, until irrigation was stopped to dry the crop for harvest. Three weeks after irrigation was cutoff, garlic Kcb declined rapidly to a value of 0.16 by harvest. Yields of each crop equaled or exceeded commercial averages for California with much less water in some cases than typically applied. The new crop coefficients will facilitate irrigation scheduling in the crops and help to achieve full yield potential without overirrigation.
Canopy cover (CC) is an important indicator of stage of growth and crop water use in horticultural crops. Remote sensing of CC has been studied in several major crops, but not in most horticultural crops. We measured CC of 11 different annual and perennial horticultural crops in various growth stages on 30 fields on the west side of California's San Joaquin Valley with a handheld multispectral digital camera. Canopy cover was compared with normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) values calculated from Landsat 5 satellite imagery. The NDVI was highly correlated and linearly related with measured CC across the wide range of crops, canopy structures, and growth stages (R2 = 0.95, P < 0.01) and predicted CC with mean absolute error of 0.047 up to effective full cover. These results indicate that remotely sensed NDVI may be an efficient way to monitor growth stage, and potentially irrigation water demand, of horticultural crops.
A 3-year study was conducted in central California to compare the effects of furrow, microjet, surface drip, and sub surface drip irrigation on vegetative growth and early production of newly planted `Crimson Lady' peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] trees. Furrow treatments were irrigated every 7, 14, or 21 days; microjet treatments were irrigated every 2-3, 7, or 14 days; and surface and subsurface drip (with one, two, or three buried laterals per row) treatments were irrigated when accumulated crop evapotranspiration reached 2.5 mm. The overall performance showed that trees irrigated by surface and subsurface drip were significantly larger, produced higher yields, and had higher water use efficiency than trees irrigated by microjets. In fact, more than twice as much water had to be applied to trees with microjets than to trees with drip systems in order to achieve the same amount of vegetative growth and yield. Yield and water use efficiency were also higher under surface and subsurface drip irrigation than under furrow irrigation, although tree size was similar among the treatments. Little difference was found between trees irrigated by surface and subsurface drip, except that trees irrigated with only one subsurface drip lateral were less vigorous, but not less productive, than trees irrigated by one surface drip lateral, or by two or three subsurface drip laterals. Within furrow and microjet treatments, irrigation frequency had little effect on tree development and performance with the exception that furrow irrigation every 3 weeks produced smaller trees than furrow irrigation every 1 or 2 weeks.
Field studies were conducted to evaluate potential alternatives to methyl bromide (MBr) for the control of plant parasitic nematodes in shallow-rooted, bedded cropping systems such as strawberry and in perennial nursery cropping systems in central California. Chloropicrin (Pic), 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D or Telone), combinations of 1,3-D + Pic, iodomethane (IM) + Pic, propargyl bromide (PBr), and metam sodium (MS) were compared with untreated controls and industry standard MBr/Pic treatments. Materials were applied by both shank-injection and drip-application, except MS and PBr, which were applied only by drip. The efficacy on citrus nematode (Tylenchulus semipenetrans Cobb) and/or root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp. Chitwood) control was investigated in three trials conducted on soils ranging from sandy loam to silty clay loam. All treatments controlled nematodes near the injection point (center of bed and moderate depths) comparable to MBr/Pic. Drip-applied Pic provided somewhat less control than MBr/Pic at the shoulder of the bed when delivered in 25 mm of water and MS provided no control at the bed shoulder. IM + Pic, both shank-injected and drip-applied, provided nematode control to a depth of 150 cm comparable to MBr/Pic. Telone EC applied to a dry field in 75 mm water did not control nematodes well at either 90- or 150-cm depths, whereas PBr controlled nematodes as effectively as MBr/Pic at the 90-cm depth, but not at the 150-cm depth. Propargyl bromide at 67 kg·ha−1 was effective at killing the nematodes up to 30 cm deep in a strawberry plant bed. The dosage exposure values (within 96 h after fumigation) observed for greater than 99% control of nematodes were much lower for PBr (≈1 mg·L−1·h) than those for 1,3-D + Pic (17 mg·L−1·h when applied at 61:35 1,3-D:Pic mass ratio), Pic alone (10 mg·L−1·h), and IM + Pic (19 mg·L−1·h when applied at 50:50 mass ratio). Drip application technology showed promise for effective alternatives to MBr/Pic. Consistent delivery of an effective dosage of a material throughout the target soil profile is necessary for consideration as an acceptable alternative to MBr for high-value crops.
A 3-year study was done to determine the effects of furrow, microspray, surface drip, and subsurface drip irrigation on production and fruit quality in mature `Crimson Lady' peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] trees. Furrow and microspray irrigations were scheduled weekly or biweekly, which is common practice in central California, while surface and subsurface drip irrigations were scheduled daily. Trees were maintained at similar water potentials following irrigation by adjusting water applications as needed. Tree size and fruit number were normalized among treatments by pruning and thinning each season. Surface and subsurface drip produced the largest fruit on average and the highest marketable yields among treatments. Drip benefits appeared most related to the ability to apply frequent irrigations. Whether water was applied above or below ground, daily irrigations by drip maintained higher soil water content within the root zone and prevented cycles of water stress found between less-frequent furrow and microspray irrigations. With furrow and microsprays, midday tree water potentials reached as low as –1.4 MPa between weekly irrigations and –1.8 MPa between biweekly irrigations, which likely accounted for smaller fruit and lower yields in these treatments. To reduce water stress, more frequent irrigation is probably impractical with furrow systems but is recommended when irrigating during peak water demands by microspray.