Can Sap Flow Probes Be Used for Determining Transpiration of Citrus Trees under Different Irrigation Regimes?
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In citrus trees, regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) can be a useful irrigation strategy to reduce water supply without affecting yield. Previous studies conducted in this sense have determined irrigation water savings achieved by RDI but less is known about the actual transpiration values of the RDI trees. This information is crucial to properly carry out a water balance of an RDI orchard. In an experiment performed during 2009 on mature 'Clementina de Nules' citrus, we determined sap flow (SF) of well irrigated and RDI trees by means of the compensation heat pulse method. SF was measured in two trees per treatment instrumented with one unit of two different gauge types per tree, determining heat velocity at four different xylem depths. SF values obtained at 30-min intervals during the entire experimental period were compared with whole canopy gas exchange measurements carried out during two representative days with custom designed Mylar plastic chambers. Plant water status was determined by midday stem water potential measurements (Psi(stem)). Results showed that absolute SF values clearly underestimated tree water use. After calibrating SF against canopy gas exchange determinations, corrected SF values appeared more reasonable but it also increased tree-to-tree variability (CV from 0.08 to 0.17). The transpiration ratio (SFRDI/SFcontrol) had a somewhat decreasing trend during the water restriction period according to Psi(stem), but recovering before the irrigation was resumed to normal dose. Overall, the results highlight some of the problems and uncertainties when using a limited number of sap flow sensors for detecting plant water stress and for accurately measuring transpiration.