Deficit irrigation in commercial mandarin trees: water relations, yield and quality responses at harvest and after cold storage

María R. Conesa, José M. de la Rosa, J. Pablo Fernández-Trujillo, Rafael Domingo, Alejandro Pérez-Pastor


Two experiments were conducted on a commercial farm of late ‘Fortune’ mandarin trees in order to know the response of regulated deficit irrigation (RDI), mainly applied during the most harmful ripening stages, on plant water relations, yield and fruit quality at harvest and after cold storage at different temperatures. Control trees were irrigated to satisfy maximum crop evapotranspiration, while RDI-1 and RDI- 2 represented a 20% and 40% reduction, respectively, in the water applied. Total yield and fruit quality at harvest were not significantly affected by either treatment. Late stage II of fruit growth was the most sensitive period to water stress, while deficit irrigation applied during flowering and stage I of fruit growth resulted in a significantly higher number of fruits per tree and an improvement in irrigation water productivity compared with the Control treatment. In both experiments, skin chroma decreased during cold storage, at the same time as titratable acidity fell. Fruit quality (titratable acidity, skin C* and ascorbic and glutamic acids) were more affected by cold storage than by differences between the RDI treatments. The use of trunk diameter fluctuation was useful for restoring the RDI irrigation to levels of the Control at the end of early stage II. From a quality point of view, any difference between treatments found at harvest tended to diminish during the subsequent shelf-life after cold storage. Quality traits (titratable acidity, ascorbic and glutamic acid) could be used as chilling biomarkers.


Citrus; regulated deficit irrigation; fruit growth; storage performance; organic acids content

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DOI: 10.5424/sjar/2018163-12631