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Partial rootzone drying improves almond tree leaf-level water use efficiency and afternoon water status compared with regulated deficit irrigation

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  • Gregorio Egea
  • Ian C. Dodd
  • Maria M. Gonzalez-Real
  • Rafael Domingo
  • Alain Baille
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2011
<mark>Journal</mark>Functional Plant Biology
Issue number5
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)372-385
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


To determine whether partial rootzone drying (PRD) optimised leaf gas exchange and soil-plant water relations in almond (Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D. A. Webb) compared with regulated deficit irrigation (RDI), a 2 year trial was conducted on field-grown trees in a semiarid climate. Five irrigation treatments were established: full irrigation (FI) where the trees were irrigated at 100% of the standard crop evapotranspiration (ETc); three PRD treatments (PRD70, PRD50 and PRD30) that applied 70, 50 and 30% ETc, respectively; and a commercially practiced RDI treatment that applied 50% ETc during the kernel-filling stage and 100% ETc during the remainder of the growth season. Measurements of volumetric soil moisture content in the soil profile (0-100 cm), predawn leaf water potential (Psi(pd)), midday stem water potential (Psi(ms)), midday leaf gas exchange and trunk diameter fluctuations (TDF) were made during two growing seasons. The diurnal patterns of leaf gas exchange and stem water potential (Psi(s)) were appraised during the kernel-filling stage in all irrigation regimes. When tree water relations were assessed at solar noon, PRD did not show differences in either leaf gas exchange or tree water status compared with RDI. At similar average soil moisture status (adjudged by similar Psi(pd)), PRD50 trees had higher water status than RDI trees in the afternoon, as confirmed by Psi(s) and TDF. Although irrigation placement showed no effects on diurnal stomatal regulation, diurnal leaf net photosynthesis (A(1)) was substantially less limited in PRD50 than in RDI trees, indicating that PRD improved leaf-level water use efficiency.