Regulated Deficit Irrigation of ‘Montmorency’ tart cherries

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Acta Horticulturae



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Regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) has been tested in a variety of fruit crops to improve efficiency of limited irrigation water, control vegetative growth, and improve fruit quality. However, little is known about the potential benefits of RDI for tart cherry (Prunus cerasus). The effects of RDI on fruit quality, yield and growth of ‘Montmorency’ were studied during the summer of 2007. Five irrigation levels were applied to six replicate plots from pit hardening (24 May) to harvest (23 July) in a uniform 13-year-old commercial orchard. The irrigation levels supplied approximately 30, 48, 61, 78 or 102% of crop evapotranspiration (ETc). Midday stem water potential was closely correlated with irrigation level and ranged from -0.8 to -1.2 MPa by harvest. Fresh and dry weight harvest yields were not significantly different among irrigation levels. Average fruit size ranged from 4.02 to 4.26 g/fruit, with only the lowest irrigation level having a noticeable increase in undersized fruit. Fruit soluble solids concentration was inversely proportional to irrigation level and ranged from 13.1 to 14.7%. There was very little trunk injury from mechanical harvest in 2007, and no detectable treatment differences in trunk injury or return bloom.

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