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Deficit irrigation based on drought tolerance and root signalling in potatoes and tomatoes

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  • Christian Richardt Jensen, Denmark
  • Adriano Battilani, Consorzio Bonifica CER, Italy
  • Finn Plauborg
  • Gerogios Psarras, NAGREF, Greece
  • Kostas Chartzoulakis, NAGREF, Greece
  • Franciszek Janowiak, Polish Academy of Science, Poland
  • Radmila Stikic, Faculty of Agriculture, Serbia
  • Zorica Jovanovic, Faculty of Agriculture, Serbia
  • Guitong Li, China Agricultural University, China
  • Xuebin Qi, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China
  • Fulai Liu, Denmark
  • Sven-Erik Jacobsen, Denmark
  • Mathias Neumann Andersen
  • Department of Agroecology and Environment
  • Agrohydrology and Water Quality

Agriculture is a big consumer of fresh water in competition with other sectors of the society. Within the EU-project SAFIR new water-saving irrigation strategies were developed based on pot, semi-field and field experiments with potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.), fresh tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) and processing tomatoes as model plants. From the pot and semi-field experiments an ABA production model was developed for potatoes to optimize the ABA signalling; this was obtained by modelling the optimal level of soil drying for ABA production before re-irrigation in a crop growth model. The field irrigation guidelines were developed under temperate (Denmark), Mediterranean (Greece, Italy) and continental (Serbia, China) climatic conditions during summer. The field investigations on processing tomatoes were undertaken only in the Po valley (North Italy) on fine, textured soil. The investigations from several studies showed that gradual soil drying imposed by deficit irrigation (DI) or partial root zone drying irrigation (PRD) induced hydraulic and chemical signals from the root system resulting in partial stomatal closure, an increase in photosynthetic water use efficiency, and a slight reduction in top vegetative growth. Further PRD increased N-mineralization significantly beyond that from DI, causing a stay-green effect late in the growing season. In field potato and tomato experiments the water-saving irrigation strategies DI and PRD were able to save about 20-30% of the water used in fully irrigated plants. PRD increased marketable yield in potatoes significantly by 15% due to improved tuber size distribution. PRD increased antioxidant content significantly by approximately 10% in both potatoes and fresh tomatoes. Under a high temperature regime, full irrigation (FI) should be undertaken, as was clear from field observations in tomatoes. For tomatoes full irrigation should be undertaken for cooling effects when the night/day average temperature >26.5 °C or when air temperature >40 °C to avoid flower-dropping. The temperature threshold for potatoes is not clear. From three-year field drip irrigation experiments we found that under the establishment phase, both potatoes and tomatoes should be fully irrigated; however, during the later phases deficit irrigation might be applied as outlined below without causing significant yield reduction:


Fresh tomatoes

Processing tomatoes

The findings during the SAFIR project might be used as a framework for implementing water-saving deficit irrigation under different local soil and climatic conditions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Pages (from-to)403-413
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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