Rapid stomatal response in lemon saves trees and their fruit yields under summer desiccation, but fails under recurring droughts

Yael Wagner, Ella Pozner, Peleg Bar-On, Uria Ramon, Eran Raveh, Efrat Neuhaus, Shabtai Cohen, José Grünzweig, Tamir Klein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Lemon (Citrus limon) is a fruit tree with major agricultural importance around the Mediterranean basin and is considered to be highly drought resistant. In this study, we tested the effect of two months summer-desiccation on physiological and yield parameters of mature lemon trees growing under Mediterranean climate during three consecutive years. We also examined the efficiency of current irrigation regime, which is based on reference evapo-transpiration. We measured leaf gas exchange and water potential (Ѱl), monitored sap flow and soil moisture and followed flowering, fruit set and fruit size. Lemon trees showed an isohydric stomatal regulation, as stomata maintained leaf water potential >-2 MPa. Summer desiccation caused a gradual decrease in diurnal tree water use, starting immediately after cessation of irrigation, with leaf gas exchange practically halted at the end of the drought period. Tree function recovered following re-irrigation, and fruit yields were not reduced, but even mildly increased during the first year. In contrast, summer desiccation during two consecutive years caused long-term effects of tree activity decrease, significantly lower yield, main branch collapse and even tree mortality. Irrigation amounts matched closely tree water-use amounts; soil moisture was maintained around 26% (v/v); and irrigation responded dynamically to meteorological changes, indicating that current irrigation regime represents highly efficient water management. The lemon desiccation protocol relied on the physiological capacity of this species to avoid short-term drought effects through stomatal closure. Still, this protocol must be managed carefully, to reduce risk to trees and save yields.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number108487
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Volume307
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

Keywords

  • Fruit diameter
  • Irrigation efficiency
  • Sap flow
  • Stomatal conductance
  • Summer desiccation
  • Verdelli practice

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