Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Department name when degree awarded

Plant Science

Committee Chair(s)

Bruce Bugbee


Bruce Bugbee


Brent Black


Scott Jones


Corey Ransom


Niel Allen


In many areas, over half of all diverted water is used for irrigation. Tree fruit crops use a lot of water, but water productivity can be increased using properly-timed precision water stress. In addition to water conservation, increases in water productivity arise from better fruit quality, increased storage life and reductions in pruning and maintenance. One major hurdle to applying precision water stress in orchards is the lack of a reliable, automated method of determining tree water status. However, the influence of physiological characteristics such as rootstock vigor on water productivity are also important. Selecting the most appropriate rootstocks and accurately determining the water status of orchard trees can increase water productivity.

Research has shown that some rootstocks can more effectively extract water from soil. In this research, the response to water stress of three different Gisela tart cherry dwarfing rootstocks was compared using a weighing lysimeter system. Gisela 12 and Gisela 3 rootstocks recovered from drought stress more quickly and had higher trunk diameter growth rates than drought-stressed Gisela 5 rootstocks.

Two potential methods of determining tree water status were also evaluated. Trunk hydration was measured using electromagnetic sensors and canopy temperature changes were detected using infrared radiometry.

Electromagnetic techniques, including time domain reflectometry, can be used to determine the water content of wood. Until recently, the cost of this technology has inhibited its widespread use, but new affordable commercial electromagnetic soil moisture sensors have created renewed interest in this technique. In this research five different types of electromagnetic soil moisture sensors were inserted into the trunks of fruit trees and were monitored over two growing seasons. Maximizing exposure of waveguides to the sapwood increased the response of these sensors to changes in stem water potential.

Infrared measurements of canopy temperature have successfully been used with field crops. However, the heterogeneity of orchard canopies makes this technique more difficult in orchards. Here, the efficacy of aiming radiometers at single trees versus at entire orchards was compared over multiple growing seasons. Neither single tree measurements nor whole orchard techniques produced a sufficiently robust signal to recommend them for general use.