Red chicory (radicchio) plants produce leafy heads that are of great commercial interest and they require a proper irrigation technique to achieve satisfactory productivity. The use of mini-sprinklers with high-frequency irrigation schedules may increase radicchio productivity, provide better growing conditions due to timely intervention, and save water, but so far little research has been carried out on this topic. This experiment aims at evaluating the effect of two mini-sprinkler irrigation schedules (high- and low-frequency) on radicchio yield and growing conditions over a 5-year cultivation period. Marketable radicchio head production was on average 12% greater with the high-frequency schedule (26.5 t ha−1
) than with the low-frequency schedule (23.6 t ha−1
), mainly due to greater head weight. The number of underweight, pre-flowering, rotten, and missing plants was significantly different between the two schedules when these variables were considered separately, but the overall number of marketable plants was greater in the high-frequency schedule during certain years. In general, the high-frequency schedule permitted to increase both radicchio yield and to reduce irrigation water use on average by 14% (−24 mm in volume), improving the irrigation water productivity by 19% (from 0.18 t mm−1
of the low-frequency schedule to 0.22 t mm−1
of the high-frequency schedule). Reducing the irrigation interval permits a timely adaptation to the weather course and improves radicchio growing conditions, presenting itself as a valid strategy that could be adopted by the farmers, upon appropriate consideration of energy and management costs.
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