Usefulness of diurnal trunk shrinkage as a water stress indicator in plum trees
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We compared seasonal changes in maximum diurnal trunk shrinkage (MDS) with seasonal changes in midday stem water potential (Psi(s)) over three years in plum trees grown in differing drip-irrigated regimes. In well-irrigated trees, day-to-day variations in Psi(s) and MDS were related to evaporative demand. Reference equations were obtained to predict MDS and Psi(s) values for well-irrigated trees as functions of environmental conditions. A decrease in plant water status toward the end of the growing season occurred even in the well-irrigated trees, probably reflecting a reduced volume of soil wetted by the drip irrigation system. Thus, for the prediction of Psi(s), different reference equations are required for the fruit-growth and after-harvest phenological periods. A seasonal change in the relationship between MDS and Psi(s) was observed, which compensated for the decrease in plant water status such that well-irrigated trees had similar MDS values during both the fruit-growth and after-harvest periods. The influence of tree size on the relationship between MDS and Psi(s) was also investigated. For tree trunk diameters ranging between 8 and 13 cm, MDS increased 13% for each cm of increase in trunk diameter, as a result of the thicker phloem tissues of the larger trees. This finding may allow extrapolation of Psi(s) predictions based on empirical relationships with MDS to plum trees of different sizes.