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A regulated deficit irrigation strategy for hedgerow olive orchards with high plant density

Fernández, José E., Perez-Martin, Alfonso, Torres-Ruiz, José M., Cuevas, María V., Rodriguez-Dominguez, Celia M., Elsayed-Farag, Sheren, Morales-Sillero, Ana, García, José M., Hernandez-Santana, Virginia, Diaz-Espejo, Antonio
Plant and soil 2013 v.372 no.1-2 pp. 279-295
deficit irrigation, fruiting, irrigation rates, oils, olives, orchards, plant density, trees, vigor, water conservation, water stress
Background & Aims: There is not a consensus on the best irrigation approach for super-high density (SHD) olive orchards. Our aim was to design and test a regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) strategy for a sustainable balance between water saving, tree vigour and oil production. Methods: We tested our RDI strategy for 3 years in an 'Arbequina' orchard with 1,667 trees ha-1. Two levels of irrigation reduction were applied, 60RDI and 30RDI, scaled to replacing 60 % and 30 %, respectively, of the of irrigation needs (IN). We also had a full irrigation (FI) treatment as control, with IN totalling 4,701 m3 ha-1 Results: The 30RDI treatment showed the best balance between water saving, tree vigour and oil production. With a yearly irrigation amount (IA) of 1,366 m3 ha-1, which meant 72 % water saving as compared to FI, the reduction in oil yield was 26 % only. Conclusions: Our results, together with recent knowledge on the effect of water stress on fruit development, allowed us to suggest a potentially improved RDI strategy for which a total IA of ca. 2,100 m3 ha-1 was calculated. Both some management details and the benefits of this suggested RDI strategy are still to be tested. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.