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Sap flow of a wild cherry tree plantation growing under Mediterranean conditions: Assessing the role of environmental conditions on canopy conductance and the effect of branch pruning on water productivity

Molina, A.J., Aranda, X., Llorens, P., Galindo, A., Biel, C.
Agricultural water management 2019 v.218 pp. 222-233
air temperature, canopy, cherries, climate, environmental factors, growers, long term effects, microirrigation, net radiation, plantations, pruning, reforestation, sap flow, soil water, soil water content, stomatal conductance, summer, tree growth, trees, vapor pressure deficit, wood properties, Europe
In recent decades, wild cherry has been one of the species most widely used for reforestation in Europe. Studies aiming to select and improve trees to give them the best growth rates and wood properties have increased in response to growers’ demands. However, information relating to key physiological processes such as transpiration or stomatal conductance and to the effect of the common practice of pruning on plant–water relations is scarce. The main objective of this study was to assess the effects of environmental conditions on canopy conductance dynamics. Its secondary objective was to examine the short- and medium-term effects of branch pruning on tree transpiration, growth and derived water productivity. To this end, we measured sap flow in an experimental plantation where trees were subjected to drip irrigation and rain-fed conditions and where variables characterizing climate, soil and tree growth were also monitored. The results demonstrated that the Jarvis–Stewart approach was appropriate for studying the responses of canopy conductance to environmental factors. As well as the role of vapour pressure deficit and net radiation in controlling the daily variations of canopy conductance, the single effects of decreasing soil water content (optimum relative extractable water, REW, higher than 0.4) and increasing air temperature (optimum of 21 °C), as summer conditions approached, were correctly incorporated into the modelling exercise. Soil water content exerted the greatest control on canopy conductance for trees growing under rain-fed conditions, while air temperature did for irrigated trees. Pruning significantly reduced transpiration to about 35% when pre- and post-sub-periods were compared, but also affected annual water productivity regardless of the irrigation treatment. To assess the long-term effects of pruning on water productivity, measurements in both pruned and unpruned trees would be desirable.