, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 651-659
Date: 25 Oct 2011

Impact of water stress on citrus yield

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Water shortage is becoming a severe problem in arid and semi-arid regions worldwide, reducing the availability of agricultural land and water resources. Deficit irrigation strategies can improve water-use efficiency and the sustainability of agro-ecosystems, although it is important to model the effects on yield loss due to irrigation water restrictions. This work estimates the water production function in citrus trees, determining the relationship between plant water stress and yield depression, as well as establishing a mathematical model for each phenological stage considered (flowering, fruit growth and ripening), and for the entire productive process. For three consecutive years (2006–2008), four regulated deficit irrigation treatments plus a control (100% crop water evapotranspiration (ETC)) were implemented in 13-year-old citrus trees (Citrus sinensis L. Osb. cv. Navelina). Different water production functions were determined for each phenological stage, establishing the relationship between the irrigation water stress and crop yield. Our results show that the fruit growth and flowering stages were the most sensitive periods in relation to irrigation water deficit and yield loss. Water stress close to 50% of ETC during the flowering stage would impose a yield loss of up to 20%, whereas this same water stress level during the fruit growth or ripening stages would result in yield losses of nearly 10% and 6%, respectively. The adjustment with cross terms (r 2 = 0.87) estimated the yield loss with good accuracy, being very similar to data measured in each study season. Consequently, the combined effect of deficit irrigation in different stages would be an additive–multiplicative model, considering that the effect of water stress in previous periods determined the crop yield response. Our model indicated that the crop water production function under deficit irrigation programmes would have a quasi-linear relation for water deficits below to 40% ETC. The previous model functions did not enable us to establish an accurate relationship when the water stress was applied in different phenological stages. Thus, this new interpretation is valuable to improve our knowledge and predict the impact of regulated deficit irrigation and have potential application in precision water stress and sustainable irrigation scheduling for citrus.