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Long-term almond yield response to deficit irrigation

A Correction to this article was published on 28 April 2021

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A substantial area of the new almond plantations in Spain is under irrigation but because of water scarcity, deficit irrigation (DI) strategies have to be adopted. This study assesses the long-term sustainability of different DI strategies over 6 years (2014–2019) on a mature almond [Prunus dulcis (Mill) D.A. Web] orchard in southern Spain. Four irrigation treatments were imposed: full irrigation (FI); two moderate DI, (SDIM) and (RDIM), where applied irrigation was 65% of FI but differed in the seasonal water distribution; and a severe DI, where applied irrigation was 35% of FI. The results emphasise the key role of soil water storage and the importance to consider crop evapotranspiration (ETC) as the principal driving variable of productivity instead of irrigation in many situations. Soil water partially buffered the irrigation reductions imposed, leading to no significant differences in yield performance between the two different moderate DI treatments. The water production functions (yield versus applied irrigation and yield versus ETC) did not show statistical differences when comparing the first (2014–2016) against that of the second triennia (2017–2019), suggesting the non-existence of exhaustion or adaptation phenomena that could jeopardize the longer term sustainability of DI strategies. Average annual ETC ranged from 580 mm in the RDIS treatment to a maximum value of 1300 mm, yielding between 1370 and 2750 kg ha−1 of nuts, and showed that water deficits caused yield losses ranging from 0.05 to 0.35 kg m−3 of irrigation water depending on the irrigation level.

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This research was partially funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (MICINN), project AGL2015-66141-R, co-financed by the European Union FEDER Funds, project INNOVA-Clima (PR.AVA.AVA2019.051) funded by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) and project PCI2019-103621 by the MICINN. D.M. is a holder of a pre-doctoral fellowship funded by MICINN. ÁL-B was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship of the ‘Juan de la Cierva-Formación’ program (FJCI-2015-24109, Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness). We acknowledge the support of K. Gutierrez, R. Luque, M. Orgaz, I. Calatrava, R. del Río and C. Martínez in the fieldwork.

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Correspondence to David Moldero.

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Moldero, D., López-Bernal, Á., Testi, L. et al. Long-term almond yield response to deficit irrigation. Irrig Sci 39, 409–420 (2021).

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