, Volume 255, Issue 1, pp 333-341

Tomato root distribution, yield and fruit quality under subsurface drip irrigation

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Abstract

Tomato rooting patterns were evaluated in a 2-year field trial where surface drip irrigation (R0) was compared with subsurface drip irrigation at 20 cm (RI) and 40 cm (RII) depths. Pot-transplanted plants of two processing tomato, `Brigade' (C1) and `H3044' (C2), were used. The behaviour of the root system in response to different irrigation treatments was evaluated through minirhizotrons installed between two plants, in proximity of the plant row. Root length intensity (L a), length of root per unit of minirhizotron surface area (cm cm−2) was measured at blooming stage and at harvest. For all sampling dates the depth of the drip irrigation tube, the cultivar and the interaction between treatments did not significantly influence L a. However differences between irrigation treatments were observed as root distribution along the soil profile and a large concentration of roots at the depth of the irrigation tubes was found. For both surface and subsurface drip irrigation and for both cultivars most of the root system was concentrated in the top 40 cm of the soil profile, where root length density ranged between 0.5 and 1.5 cm cm−3. Commercial yields (t ha−1) were 87.6 and 114.2 (R0), 107.5 and 128.1 (RI), 105.0 and 124.8 (RII), for 1997 and 1998, respectively. Differences between the 2 years may be attributed to different climatic conditions. In the second year, although no significant differences were found among treatments, slightly higher values were observed with irrigation tubes at 20 cm depth. Fruit quality was not significantly affected by treatments or by the interaction between irrigation tube depth and cultivar.