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Assessment of sustainable deficit irrigation in a Moroccan apple orchard as a climate change adaptation strategy

El Jaouhari, Nabil, Abouabdillah, Aziz, Bouabid, Rachid, Bourioug, Mohamed, Aleya, Lotfi, Chaoui, Mohamed
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.642 pp. 574-581
apples, carbon dioxide, climate change, crop yield, deficit irrigation, evapotranspiration, fruit quality, fruit set, fruits, irrigation management, orchards, sugar content, trees, water content, Morocco
This study was conducted over three consecutive years, 2015, 2016 and 2017, in the Imouzzer Kander region located in northwestern Morocco. The main objective is to evaluate apple tree responses to two sustainable deficit irrigation strategies with 75% (T2) and 50% (T3) of calculated crop evapotranspiration (ETc), compared to a control irrigated with 100% ETc (T1). During the three experiment years, estimated reference evapotranspiration (ET0) was 630, 684 and 728 mm, respectively, in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Under the two restricted regimes, shoot length and fruit size evolution were not significantly affected. During the fruit set of 2017, no significant effects of sustainable deficit irrigation on the relative water content were observed, whereas they increased significantly during the fruit-swelling stage for the T3 treatment. Likewise, net CO2 assimilation (An) was not affected by the irrigation dose, whereas it increased significantly and inversely proportional to the amount of applied water during fruit swelling. Thus, under our experimental conditions, the trees subjected to extreme deficit irrigation (T3) were not stressed at either stage. Moreover, deficit irrigation at 75% ETc increased apple yield significantly. In contrast, deficit irrigation at 50% ETc throughout the cycle was not enough to maintain an acceptable fruit size for the three studied campaigns. However, the best qualitative performance, notably for fruit firmness and sugar content, was attributed to this irrigation regime (T3).