Manage soils & water to control tree growth & increase productivity (part 8)

Written by   Judy Tisdall and Bas van den Ende

Regulating the supply of water restricts roots

(continued from last month)
Regulating the supply of water restricts roots
In dry climates low-flow irrigation (drip or microjet) can be managed to restrict root volume simply by controlling the amount of the soil that is wet during irrigation.
A smaller root volume under drip irrigation can decrease tree size.
Irrigation management is a useful tool that you have at your disposal as a means of:
•Maximising growth
•Controlling tree vigour
•Cost savings through less pumping
•Decreased need for other vigour control options such as cincturing, root pruning, applications of Regalis, or summer pruning.
Benefits of drip irrigation
Drip irrigation potentially provides you with an extraordinary level of control over the precise amount of water delivered to each tree—far greater than for any other system.
Drip irrigation has the ability to precisely deliver the intended dosage of both water and fertiliser and do it in a way conducive to tree root growth.
It can be very reliable and cost effective if well designed and managed and brings levels of efficiency simply not possible with any other system.
A well-designed drip system will allow uniform distribution of water, minimise water losses, provide a healthy root system, be reliable and have both relatively low capital and operating costs.
Fruit trees grown under drip irrigation are less vigorous and crop earlier than fruit trees grown under microjet irrigation. This is attributed to a restricted root volume under drip irrigation.
Drip irrigation is an irrigation method with which small amounts of water are applied at frequent intervals directly to a small surface from a single emission point.
Microjet irrigation
Microjet irrigation uses a small spray.
The difference in root volume between drip and microjet irrigation are often small and the wetting pattern under microjet irrigation will, with time, also restrict root volume.
Microjet irrigation—which spreads water over a wider area of soil surface and allows longer time for drainage between irrigation—is often a safer method of irrigation, especially in heavy soils.
At high tree densities, however, the spray pattern should be limited to restrict root growth if it is desired to control tree size.
Manipulating early growth and yield
Both methods of irrigation can be finely tuned to manipulate early growth and yield.
Early cropping also checks the growth of young fruit trees and when combined with drip irrigation in high-density plantings, enables tree size to be contained more easily.
Both methods of irrigation save considerable water and are highly suitable for fruit growing in areas with limited water.
Deficit irrigation
Management of root growth is an important method to control vegetative growth and production of fruit trees.
(cont next month)

See this article in Tree Fruit March 2018

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