|Authors: ||J.A. Zegbe, A. Serna-Pérez, M.R. Maldonado-Rodríguez|
|Keywords: ||Opuntia spp., water savings, fruit size distribution|
Cactus pear is grown mainly under rain-fed conditions in marginal semi-arid and arid highlands of central and north-central Mexico.
Drip irrigation may increase fruit yield ~3.5-fold.
However, the effects of supplemental irrigation (SI) on preharvest growth and water saving have not been assessed previously.
The objective of this study was to determine the possibility of saving water and improving water-use efficiency (WUE) in 'Dalia Roja' cactus pear, without adverse effects on fruit yield (FY) and fruit quality (FQ). Irrigation treatments (IT) were as follows: non-irrigated (NI) as control, supplemental irrigation (SI), and full irrigation (FI). Treatments were arranged in a completely randomized design with three replicates.
The response variables were irrigation water applied (IWA), WUE, FY, fruit size distribution (FSD), and FQ. The following FQ determinations were made: mean fruit mass (MFM), flesh firmness (FF), pulp and peel mass, total soluble solids concentration (TSSC), and dry matter concentration (DMC) of fruit.
The experiment was conducted in Zacatecas, Mexico.
At harvest, SI saved ~52% of IWA, increased the efficiency of IWA by ~1.4-fold, but reduced FY by 12.9% compared to FI. Over 70% of the fruit produced by FI and SI plants was most marketable (categories 1 and 2), while NI plants produced only 28% category 2 fruits.
The quality indicators FF and pulp-to-peel ratio were similar among IT, while NI fruit had the highest TSSC and DMC and the lowest MFM. SI produced similar responses to FI while saving irrigation water and enhancing FY, FSD, and MFM, but TSSC and DMC were reduced.
Nevertheless, SI has potential for growing cactus pear in this region and similar production zones around the world where water availability is limited.
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