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Is the Subsurface Drip the Most Sustainable Irrigation System for Almond Orchards in Water-Scarce Areas? HOT

Abstract: The expansion of irrigated almond orchards in arid and semi-arid areas with scarce water available raises key issues related to the sustainability of the water resources. A 3-year field experiment was conducted on a commercial young almond orchard located in the southeast of Spain to study the effect of two drip irrigation systems (surface, DI and subsurface, SDI) on almond crop growth and their physiological responses under fully-irrigated conditions. Crop evapotranspiration (ETc) and its components (crop transpiration, Tc and soil evaporation, Es) were monitored as well as the irrigation water and nitrogen productivities. To estimate ETc, a simplified two-source energy balance (STSEB) approach was used. Although a lower irrigation water amount was applied in SDI compared to DI (differences between 10% and 13.8%), the almond crop growth and physiological responses as well as the yield components and kernel yield showed no significant differences. The ETc estimates resulted in small differences for spring and fall periods (0.1–0.2 mm day−1 ) for both treatments, while differences were significant during higher ETo periods (May–August), being 1.0–1.3 mm day−1 higher for the DI treatment than for the SDI treatment. The irrigation water productivity (IWP) was significantly higher in the SDI treatment than in the DI treatment. However, no significant differences between the two treatments were observed for nitrogen productivity. It can be concluded that the SDI system is a suitable strategy for irrigating almond crops, reducing consumptive water use and increasing IWP.

Keywords: plant-water status; crop evapotranspiration; simplified two-source energy balance; irrigation water productivity; nitrogen productivity

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Created 2022-08-30
Changed 2022-08-30
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