Response of Clementina de Nules citrus trees to summer deficit irrigation. Yield components and fruit composition
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The effects of mid-summer regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) treatments were investigated on Clementina de Nules citrus trees over three seasons. Water restrictions applied from July, once the June physiological fruit drop had finished, until mid September were compared with a Control treatment irrigated during all the season to match full crop evapotranspiration (ET(c)). Two degrees of water restrictions were imposed based on previous results also obtained in Clementina de Nules trees (Ginestar and Castel, 1996; Gonzalez-Altozano and Castel, 1999). During the RDI period, deficit irrigation was applied based on given reductions over the ET(c), but also taking into account threshold values of midday stem water potential (Psi(s)) of -1.3 to -1.5 MPa for RDI-1 and of -1.5 to -1.7 MPa for RDI-2. Results showed that water savings achieved in the RDI-2 treatment impaired yield by reducing fruit size. On the contrary, the RDI-1 strategy allowed for 20% water savings, with a reduction in tree growth but without any significant reduction in yield, fruit size nor in the economic return when irrigation was resumed to normal dose about three months before harvest. Water use efficiency (WUE) in the RDI trees was similar or even higher than in Control trees. RDI improved fruit quality increasing total soluble solids (TSS) and titratable acidity (TA). In conclusion, we suggest that the RDI-1 strategy here evaluated can be applied in commercial orchards not only in case of water scarcity, but also as a tool to control vegetative growth improving fruit composition and reducing costs associated with the crop management. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.