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Soil capacitance sensors and stem dendrometers. Useful tools for irrigation scheduling of commercial orchards?

Autores: L. Bonet, P. Ferrer, J. R. Castel, D. S. Intrigliolo
Palabras clave: citrus; plum; regulated deficit irrigation; trunk diameter variations; water stress.
Fecha de publicación: 2010
Publicado en: Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research

Irrigation scheduling is often performed based on a soil water balance, where orchard evapotranspiration is estimated
using the reference evapotranspiration (ETo) times the crop coefficient (Kc). This procedure, despite being widely
spread, has some uncertainties. Because of this, plant and soil water status monitoring could be alternatively or
complementarily used to schedule irrigation. The usefulness of capacitance probes was evaluated during several seasons
in large irrigation districts where irrigation practices were changed over years from the ETo * Kc model to the analysis
of soil water status trend. This area corresponds to drip irrigated orchards planted with citrus, peach, nectarine and
persimmon. Around 25% less irrigation was applied with no substantial yield penalty when the information provided
by capacitance probes was correctly applied for irrigation management. On the other hand, the usefulness of stem
dendrometers for continuously monitoring plant water status was evaluated in a young plum experimental orchard.
Over two years, irrigation was scheduled using exclusively trunk shrinkage via the signal intensity approach by means
of a baseline equation previously obtained in the orchard. Results showed that it was not always possible to schedule
irrigation based on the trunk shrinkage signal intensity due to the temporal changes in the reference values that occurred
as trees aged. Overall, results obtained are discussed in terms of the possible extrapolation at field level of both
capacitance probes and stem dendrometers. Advantages and drawbacks of each technique are analyzed and discussed.

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