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Micro-irrigation strategies to improve water-use efficiency of cherry trees in Northern China

Liao, Renkuan, Wu, Wenyong, Hu, Yaqi, Xu, Di, Huang, Qiannan, Wang, Shiyu
Agricultural water management 2019 v.221 pp. 388-396
Prunus avium, cherries, fertilizers, fruit quality, fruit trees, furrow irrigation, groundwater, irrigation management, microirrigation, mulches, orchards, pollution, soil profiles, soil water content, water conservation, water uptake, water use efficiency, China
Extensive irrigation strategies are commonly and widely used for orchards in Northern China, leading to low water-use efficiency (WUE) and potential fertilizer pollution of underground water. Effective micro-irrigation strategies for orchards remain unclear and require further investigation to assist in developing orchard water-saving irrigation systems. In this study, compared with local traditional furrow irrigation, six micro-irrigation strategies (with or without mulch film) were applied to a 6-year-old cherry (Prunus avium L.) field for three years (2015–2017). The moisture spatial distribution of soil profile, water consumption, yield, and fruit quality were measured to evaluate the effectiveness of different irrigation strategies on growth and WUE of cherry trees. The results showed that the strongest variability of moisture in soil profile was in the 0–60 cm soil layer, indicating the water uptake of cherry trees is closely related to the soil moisture content in this region. Compared with furrow irrigation, micro-irrigation strategies can significantly (P < 0.05) reduce the water consumption of cherry trees without reducing yield, and treatments with mulch film will further enhance this effect. Ring drip irrigation with mulch film and parallel drip irrigation with mulch film significantly (P < 0.05) improved WUE. Furthermore, parallel drip irrigation with mulch film at a designed wetting depth of 60 cm was suggested irrigation strategy for a 6-year-old cherry field in terms of WUE, yield, fruit quality, and maintenance cost. The findings of this study provide a typical reference for further research on water-saving irrigation systems of perennial fruit trees.