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An artificial capillary barrier to improve root-zone conditions for horticultural crops: response of pepper, lettuce, melon, and tomato


Capillary barriers (CBs) occur at the interface between two soil layers having distinct differences in hydraulic characteristics. In preliminary work without growing crops, it was demonstrated that CBs implemented in sandy soils increased hydrostatic volumetric water content by 20–70%, depending on soil texture and depth of barrier insertion. We hypothesized that the introduction of an artificial CB at the lower root-zone boundary of horticultural crops can increase yields as a result of increased water content and uptake efficiency. The effects of introduced CBs on soil water content, plant growth, and yields of bell peppers (Capsicum annum L), lettuce (Lactuca sativa L), tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculantum L.), and melons (Cucumis melo L.) were studied in a desert environment in southern Israel. Inclusion of a CB increased soil water content by 60% and biomass and fruit yields by 25% for pepper, and increased matric head and biomass yield by 80 and 36%, respectively, for lettuce. Neither tomatoes nor melons reacted significantly to the presence of CBs, in spite of increased soil moisture. Daily soil matric head amplitude was reduced fivefold when lettuce was grown with a CB. Spatial variability was highly reduced when a CB was present. When peppers were grown with a CB, the standard deviations of water content and biomass yield were reduced by 40% relative to control.

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Correspondence to Naftali Lazarovitch.

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Communicated by J. Ayars.

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Ityel, E., Lazarovitch, N., Silberbush, M. et al. An artificial capillary barrier to improve root-zone conditions for horticultural crops: response of pepper, lettuce, melon, and tomato. Irrig Sci 30, 293–301 (2012).

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  • Melon
  • Vapor Pressure Deficit
  • Fruit Yield
  • Water Application
  • Pepper Plant