Irrigation scheduling based on soil water content (Ɵw) sensors requires that Ɵw be maintained within a range (management lines) that is optimal for plant growth. The lower limit or “breaking point” is determined following the soil water content dynamics on the transition of a rapid rate of depletion to a slower, under similar reference evapotranspiration. Although this criterion is practical, its implementation should be validated with plant water status measurement that contemplate weather condition, such as stem water potential “non-stressed” baseline (Ψₓ as a function of vapor-pressure deficit (VPD) in Ɵw conditions that do not limit yield). A study was conducted on a mature cv. ‘Hass’ avocado orchard in Central Chile during two seasons. There were 5 irrigation treatments: T1, Control; T2 and T3 with 29% less and 25% more of what was applied in T1, respectively; T4 and T5 same as Control until first and second fruit drop abscission, respectively, and then with 29% less. T1 trees were irrigated using a continuous frequency domain reflectometry (FDR) probe to maintain the root zone between field capacity and the breaking point. There was biweekly monitoring of the Ɵw prior to irrigation, Ψₓ and VPD. The Ψₓ decline proportional to the intensity and the timing of water restriction; however, no treatment affected the crop load in either season. T2 did not show significant detrimental in fruit size, production and maturation, despite that frequently reached water content levels at the limit of the breaking point, and showed lower levels of stem water potential than Control, being the treatment with the highest water productivity. The results confirm that breaking point is an effective criterion to establish irrigation management. Additionally, when comparing the baseline for our non-stressed trees with a baseline from full irrigation treatments obtained from the literature, 30% water savings were achieved.
- Frequency domain reflectometry
- Irrigation scheduling
- Stem water potential
- Water productivity
- Water scarcity