The effects of deficit irrigation on water use efficiency, yield and quality of drip-irrigated tomatoes grown under field conditions in Zimbabwe
Keywords:tomato, deficit irrigation strategies, quality, yield, water use efficiency
Water availability in the root zone directly affects the yield and quality of tomatoes yet in most cases in sub-Saharan Africa water is either expensive or scarce. It is therefore important to establish and utilise suitable irrigation strategies in order to produce the crop in a sustainable way. In this study the effect of conventional and deficit irrigation treatments on yield, fruit quality and water use efficiency (WUE) were determined. Four trials were conducted at the University of Zimbabwe Farm from 2014-2017 with four treatments per trial: T1 = 100%, T2 = 80%, T3 = 60%, and T4 = 50% of crop water requirements (ETc). Treatments had equal number of plants per trial with an in-row plant spacing of 0.3 m and 0.5 m between adjacent rows. ETc was determined daily for each treatment and the corresponding volume applied through one drip emitter per plant. Fruits from each treatment were gathered while ripening and the total yield obtained. WUE was calculated by dividing the total fresh yield by total irrigation water applied. Maximum yield was obtained where 100% ETc was applied, with no significant difference between yield of plants at 80% and 60% ETc, except in 2016. Yield decreased with 50% ETc in 2014, 2015, and 2017 with no significant difference in yield between 60% and 50% ETc treatments in 2016. The 2015 season recorded the highest yield when compared to other trials showing that we can save 40% of water resulting in high WUE with minimum loss in yield. Deficit irrigation reduced fruit water but increased fruit soluble solids (°brix), vitamin C and fruit acid concentrations. Firmness was best when 60% ETc was applied. These results show that deficit irrigation is feasible for crop water management options for the production of high-quality field-grown tomatoes without major yield reductions.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Godfrey Muroyiwa, Emmanuel Mashonjowa, Department of Space Science and Applied Physics, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe, Maud Muchuweti
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