Benefits of low-frequency irrigation in citrus orchards

  • Iván García-Tejero
  • Víctor Hugo Durán-ZuazoEmail author
  • José Luis Muriel-Fernández
  • Gonzalo Martínez-García
  • Juan Antonio Jiménez-Bocanegra
Original Paper


Citrus is a crop of major economic importance in Spain, cultivated during the dry season when irrigation is essential to guarantee yields of high quality. As water resources are progressively more insufficient, more effective water management in agriculture is crucial. Deficit irrigation in many agricultural crops has frequently proved to be an efficient tool for improving water-use efficiency. We hypothesise that, despite the effectiveness of deficit irrigation, the most suitable strategy in citrus orchards remains to be defined for Mediterranean environment. In this study, for the period from 2006 to 2008, a 12-year-old orange orchard, Citrus sinensis L. Osb. cv. Navelina, grafted onto Carrizo citrange, C. sinensis L. Osb. × Poncirus trifoliata L. Osb., were subjected under two deficit-irrigation strategies defined as follows: (1) low-frequency deficit irrigation applied according to the plant–water status, and (2) sustained-deficit irrigation with a water-stress ratio of 0.6, defined as the ratio of actual water-limited supply in this treatment related to the water supply of the control treatment. The control treatment was irrigated at 100% of ETC for the entire irrigation season (ETC: crop evapotranspiration). Midday stem–water potential (Ψ stem) and stomatal conductance (g S) were used to estimate the water status of the trees. The lowest Ψ stem and gS values were registered in the deficit-irrigation treatments with a seasonal pattern consistent with the irrigation dynamics applied in each case. Ψ stem and g S values significantly differed from those of the control trees. Although the integrated stress levels were similar in deficit-irrigation treatments, differences in yield and fruit quality were found, having a more positive response to low-frequency deficit irrigation with an increase of 25% in yield in comparison to the sustained-deficit irrigation treatment. Here, we thus demonstrate the significant differences in water productivity. Indeed, water productivity parameter not only depends on the amount of water, but also on the irrigation strategy applied, which promoted substantial water savings without significant impact on yield. The present study highlights that low-frequency deficit irrigation should be adopted as a most appropriate strategy for achieving sustainable water management and attains reasonable yields and improves quality in citrus orchards under Mediterranean semiarid climate.


Sustained deficit irrigation Low-frequency deficit irrigation Integrated stem–water potential Integrated stomatal conductance Yield Fruit quality 



Part of the research work leading to this publication was sponsored by the following research project “Strategies for the improvement irrigation management under climatic change. Integration of modelling techniques and deficit irrigation strategies” (RTA2008-00006-CO2-02) granted by INIA, Spain, and cofinanced by FEDER funds (European Union). The authors also thank to J. García-Baquero and M.A. Fernández-Ayala for field data collection and laboratory analyses. The author I. García-Tejero is in receipt of research fellowships from INIA (PRE-2007).


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iván García-Tejero
    • 1
  • Víctor Hugo Durán-Zuazo
    • 1
    Email author
  • José Luis Muriel-Fernández
    • 1
  • Gonzalo Martínez-García
    • 1
  • Juan Antonio Jiménez-Bocanegra
    • 1
  1. 1.IFAPA Centro Las Torres-TomejilAlcalá del RíoSpain

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