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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1299: XXX International Horticultural Congress IHC2018: VII International Symposium on Tropical and Subtropical Fruits, Avocado, II International Symposium on Jackfruit and Other Moraceae and II International Symposium on Date Palm

Irrigation water management in date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) under arid environment

Authors:   N.R. Bhat, I. McCann, M. Albaho
Keywords:   evapotranspiration, water-use-efficiency, irrigation requirement, water conservation, deficit irrigation
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2020.1299.67
Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.), a traditional crop closely linked to Arab culture, is well adapted to the hyper-arid environment of Kuwait. Nevertheless, the present irrigation practice in Kuwait which relies on applying large quantities of water (>200 m3 tree‑1 year‑1) using inefficient delivery systems has enormous economic and environmental consequences. Recognizing the need for developing sustainable irrigation practices, a series of studies were conducted at Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research between 2009 and 2017 to determine real-time irrigation needs of selected date palms cultivars and evaluate their response to saline irrigation water (1.6, 5, 10 or 20 dS m‑1), deficit irrigation (50, 75 or 100% of water ETc), irrigation systems (subsurface drip, basin flooding, and surface drip), surface mulch, and soil application of hydrophilic polymer. Under the hyper-arid conditions of Kuwait, the lowest (3.22 mm day‑1) and the highest (12.73 mm day‑1) ETc were recorded in February and June, respectively. The annual ETc varied between 2,307.16 mm year‑1 in cultivar ‘Nabusaif’ and 2,725.08 mm year‑1 in cultivar ‘Siwi’ and consequently, the net irrigation requirements of these cultivars varied between 23,392 and 27,251 m3 ha‑1 year‑1, respectively. Results also indicated that irrigating the palms using the surface drip system at 50% of their ETc improved water use efficiency without adversely affecting tree performance. Similarly, the combination of soil application of hydrophilic polymer (Agrichope®) and date palm leaf mulch significantly improved irrigation water use efficiency and reduced water consumption by up to 35% without affecting their growth.

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