J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2007, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (10): 1421-1434.DOI: 10.1111/j.1672-9072.2007.00556.x

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Deficit irrigation as a strategy to save water: Physiology and potential application to horticulture

J. Miguel Costa, Maria F. Ortuño and M. Manuela Chaves   

  • Online:2007-10-11 Published:2007-10-10

Abstract: Water is an increasingly scarce resource worldwide and irrigated agriculture remains one of the largest and most inefficient users of this resource. Low water use efficiency (WUE) together with an increased competition for water resources with other sectors (e.g. tourism or industry) are forcing growers to adopt new irrigation and cultivation practices that use water more judiciously. In areas with dry and hot climates, drip irrigation and protected cultivation have improved WUE mainly by reducing runoff and evapotranspiration losses. However, complementary approaches are still needed to increase WUE in irrigated agriculture. Deficit irrigation strategies like regulated deficit irrigation or partial root drying have emerged as potential ways to increase water savings in agriculture by allowing crops to withstand mild water stress with no or only marginal decreases of yield and quality. Grapevine and several fruit tree crops seem to be well adapted to deficit irrigation, but other crops like vegetables tend not to cope so well due to losses in yield and quality. This paper aims at providing an overview of the physiological basis of deficit irrigation strategies and their potential for horticulture by describing the major consequences of their use to vegetative growth, yield and quality of different crops (fruits, vegetables and ornamentals).

Key words: deficit irrigation, horticulture, partial rootzone drying, regulated deficit irrigation, water saving.

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