Above-and belowground responses to shifts in soil moisture in bearing apple trees

David Eissenstat, Denise Neilsen, Gerry H. Neilsen, Thomas Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Limiting irrigation to increase fruit quality as well as conserve limited water resources is of increasing importance. We examined the links of aboveground growth and physiology to root growth and distribution under cultural practices associated with restricted irrigation and mulching in an apple (‘Gala/M.9’; Malus × domestica Borkh.) orchard in a semiarid climate. Trees were either mulched to maintain a 10-cm depth or left unmulched. After orchard establishment, half the trees (partially irrigated) received daily drip irrigation only sufficient to meet 50% of daily evapotranspiration for 45 days before fruit harvest using one emitter per tree. The other trees continued to receive 100% irrigation using two emitters. Over three growing seasons, fruit yield was strongly affected in 2 of 3 years by partial irrigation if trees were unmulched but not if mulched. Fruit size and other quality parameters were minimally affected by partial irrigation. Total fine root length in fully irrigated trees was nearly double that of partially irrigated trees. Our results suggest that increases in soil moisture associated with mulching enabled mulched apple trees to tolerate deficit irrigation with minimal consequences for production and quality of apples, but with an overall less extensive and smaller root system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1500-1506
Number of pages7
JournalHortScience
Volume53
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

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apples
soil water
irrigation
emitters (equipment)
mulching
orchards
fruits
deficit irrigation
semiarid zones
Malus domestica
plant cultural practices
microirrigation
fruit yield
water resources
evapotranspiration
root systems
fruit quality
root growth
physiology
growing season

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Horticulture

Cite this

Eissenstat, David ; Neilsen, Denise ; Neilsen, Gerry H. ; Adams, Thomas. / Above-and belowground responses to shifts in soil moisture in bearing apple trees. In: HortScience. 2018 ; Vol. 53, No. 10. pp. 1500-1506.
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Above-and belowground responses to shifts in soil moisture in bearing apple trees. / Eissenstat, David; Neilsen, Denise; Neilsen, Gerry H.; Adams, Thomas.

In: HortScience, Vol. 53, No. 10, 01.01.2018, p. 1500-1506.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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