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Open AccessArticle

Effects of Saline and Deficit Irrigation on Soil-Plant Water Status and Potato Crop Yield under the Semiarid Climate of Tunisia

1
Department of Plant Biotechnology, Higher Institute of Biotechnology of Beja, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, B.P: 382, Béja 9000, Tunisia
2
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment (DAFE), University of Pisa, Via del Borghetto 80, 56124 Pisa, Italy
3
Olive Institute, Unit of Sousse, Ibn Khaldoun 14, Sousse 4061, Tunisia
4
Department of Rural Engineering, High Agronomic Institute of Chott Mériem, Université de Sousse, BP 47, Chott Mériem Sousse 4042, Tunisia
5
Department Agriculture, Food and Forest Sciences, Università degli Studi di Palermo, Viale delle Scienze 12, Ed.4, 90128 Palermo, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2706; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092706
Received: 7 April 2019 / Revised: 6 May 2019 / Accepted: 8 May 2019 / Published: 13 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Systems)
Water supplies have been decreasing in several semi-arid regions, and it is therefore necessary to adopt irrigation strategies aimed at maximizing water use efficiency. In this paper, the effects of saline and deficit irrigation on water use efficiency and on potato crop response, based on observations of soil and plant water status, were investigated. Experiments were carried out in Central Tunisia, by monitoring potato crop growth during two seasons in four distinct treatments (T1–T4), represented by two different irrigation doses and two water qualities. For irrigation scheduling purposes, thresholds of soil matric potential, soil water content and Crop Water Stress Index (CWSI) were identified with the aim to quantify the effects of water and/or salinity stress on the achievable yield. Experiments allowed verifying that crop yield is strongly affected by the seasonal amount and quality of applied water. Despite differences of crop yield between treatments T2, T3 and T4 not being statistically significant (P < 0.05), crop yield varied between 26.3 t/ha (T3 in 2015) to 16.3 t/ha (T4 in 2015). However, crop yield decline of 17.0 t/ha and 12.0 t/ha per each 100 mm decrease of applied water were observed under the application of water electrical conductivity of 1.6 dS/m and 4.1 dS/m respectively. On the other hand, an increase of 1.0 dS/m in water electrical conductivity caused a yield decline rate of about 10%. The results achieved showed that under the semi-arid climate of Tunisia, potato crop irrigation should be scheduled to avoid water deficit; however, the possibility to reduce water supply can be envisaged when water availability is limited, but with the awareness to accept the shortage of production. Finally, when saline water is the only source available to the farm, it is necessary to avoid the reduction of irrigation doses, to prevent excessive salt accumulation in the root zone with unavoidable effects on crop yield. View Full-Text
Keywords: crop water status; thermal imaging; crop water stress index; full irrigation; deficit irrigation; water use efficiency crop water status; thermal imaging; crop water stress index; full irrigation; deficit irrigation; water use efficiency
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Ghazouani, H.; Rallo, G.; Mguidiche, A.; Latrech, B.; Douh, B.; Boujelben, A.; Provenzano, G. Effects of Saline and Deficit Irrigation on Soil-Plant Water Status and Potato Crop Yield under the Semiarid Climate of Tunisia. Sustainability 2019, 11, 2706.

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